15 suspended for alleged laxity, as Levana Suites hotel fire claimed 4 lives
Fifteen officers have been placed under suspension for alleged laxity in respect to the Levana Suites hotel fire that claimed four lives in Lucknow on September 5. Besides, action under applicable rules would be taken against four retired officials.
These steps come as a high-level probe pinpointed alleged “connivance” in connection with the functioning of the Lucknow hotel where the blaze erupted, people privy to the development said.
A departmental inquiry has been ordered against the officials as well. An official spokesman said chief minister Yogi Adityanath gave directives for strict action after receiving the report of police commissioner SB Shirodkar and Lucknow divisional commissioner Roshan Jacob who jointly conducted a high-level inquiry into the incident. The report that was submitted in the early hours of Saturday also found that officials did not raise a red flag on various violations in the hotel premises, people privy to the development said. The chief minister had formed the committee comprising Shirodkar and Jacob soon after the incident.
The five departments, whose officers face action include the departments of home, energy, appointment, housing and urban planning (Lucknow Development Authority) and excise. Sushil Yadav, the then fire officer, Yogendra Prasad Yadav, fire officer (II), chief fire officer Vijay Kumar Singh, assistant director (electricity security) Vijay Kumar Rao, assistant engineer Ashish Kumar Mishra and sub divisional officer Rajesh Kumar Mishra, Mahendra Kumar Mishra PCS (then competent authority) Lucknow Development Authority have been placed under suspension. Departmental inquiry will be initiated against them.
Others placed under suspension include Lucknow Development Authority’s then assistant engineer Rakesh Mohan (housing and urban planning department), junior engineer Jitendra Nath Dubey, junior engineer Ravindra Kumar Srivastava, junior engineer Jaivir Singh and Ram Pratap Mate, the then district excise officer Santosh Kumar Tiwari, excise inspector sector 1 Amit Kumar Srivastava and deputy excise commissioner (Lucknow) Jainendra Upadhyay.
Action under applicable rules would be taken against chief fire officer (retired) Abhay Bhan Pandey, LDA executive engineer (retired) Arun Kumar Singh, executive engineer (retired) Om Prakash Mishra and assistant engineer (retired) Ganeshi Dutt Singh.
The probe report also mentioned multiple flaws related to the entry and exit routes, ventilation as well as faulty fire-safety gadgets, people privy to the issue said.
In the joint report, deficiencies were reportedly found in fire-fighting equipment inside the hotel. Besides it came to light that though fire-fighting arrangements were inadequate, the fire department had given an NOC to the hotel.
The report stated that there was no emergency exit but no civic department objected to it. Besides, no notices were issued to the hotel highlighting these deficiencies.
Moreover, the parking lot in the basement was used for storing other things instead of parking vehicles.
The kitchen had open wiring exposing everyone to fire in case of a short-circuit.
The bar was reportedly operational without safety equipment required to douse flames. Besides, there were poor arrangements for evacuation, improper training of hotel staff and improper construction at numerous points.
A senior police officer, who examined the spot, had stated earlier that liquor bottles were found lying on the third floor, and there was a bar on the floor above it. He suspected that due to the inflammable nature of alcohol, the fire tore through liquor bottles, causing the flames to spread to the third floor.
Lucknow commissioner of police SB Shirodkar on Saturday morning confirmed submitting the report.
“We finalised the report late night on Friday and signed it around 12 am on Friday/Saturday midnight. Thereafter, the report was sent to the state government,” he stated. He, however, denied sharing further details mentioned in the report.
The police had earlier filed an FIR under Indian Penal Code sections 304 (causing death due to negligent act), 308 (risking people’s lives by making them unconscious with their act) against four people, including the hotel’s two owners Rahul and Rohit Agarwal, Rohit’s father Pawan Agarwal, and the hotel’s general manager Sagar Srivastava on Monday evening. Three of them —Rahul, Rohit Agarwal and Sagar Srivastava — were sent to 14 days’ judicial custody on Tuesday.
The allegations mentioned in the FIR lodged on the complaint of Hazratganj police station senior sub-inspector Daya Shankar Dwivedi had stated that no fire safety measures were in place at the hotel. Besides, the hotel did not have emergency entry and exit routes.
(Except for the headline and the pictorial description, this story has not been edited by THE DEN staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)