The Bombay High Court (HC) last Friday granted anticipatory bail to a civic engineer booked in connection with the death of four persons, as a fully loaded truck got stuck in a manhole and toppled on them at Park Site in Vikhroli, Mumbai, in April 2019.
Justice Sarang Kotwal granted pre-arrest bail to Ashish Amare, a sub-engineer employed with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), because he was shown as the accused in the case 10 months after the incident had occurred and also his custodial interrogation was not required.
“The first information report (FIR) was filed in April 2019, but until February this year the investigating agency did not name the present applicant as the accused,” said the judge. “If the applicant is arrested, he would lose his job besides facing the trauma of arrest.”
Four persons were killed after a truck transporting foodgrains fell on them at Surya Nagar, near Vikhroli’s Park Site, late in the evening on April 18, 2019. A culvert failed to hold the weight of the fully-loaded truck, which toppled after the driver accelerated the engine to move the vehicle out of the manhole, and crushed five people. Four of them had died on the accident spot, while the fifth person survived after being severely injured.
Experts from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay investigated the accident and came to the conclusion that the newly laid concrete around the manhole cover had poor quality with very low strength and weak structural integrity. Due to heavy tyre load the concrete around the manhole failed in shear causing the collapse of the manhole cover and overturning of the truck.
The report cited that the failure of the concrete could have been because of patchwork at the damaged location, as bonding between old and new concrete was not achieved adequately. The culvert should have been cast in a single pour, experts suggested.
Though the experts blamed poor quality of construction work for the accident, the HC noted that the sub-engineer was appointed as the contractor because he had undertaken the emergency work of the stormwater drain manhole following persistent requests from a local councillor. Besides, the public did not allow the concrete to settle properly. They drove away an employee of the contractor who was watering the concrete, and opened the patch of the road for traffic without letting the concrete settle.
In this backdrop, justice Kotwal said if the sub-engineer is guilty of any offence, as alleged by the prosecution, he would be convicted and sentenced after trial, but his custodial interrogation at this stage is not required.