• Saturday, May 18, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Mumbai: Owner of illegal hoarding that killed 14 goes missing; has tainted past

Bhavesh Prabhudas Bhinde, 51, was booked in a rape case earlier this year and was fined more than 20 times in the past for erecting illegal banners.

National Disaster Response Force personnel and rescue workers inspect the site where an advertisement billboard collapsed at a petrol station following a dust storm in Mumbai, India, on May 13, 2024. (Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

BHAVESH Prabhudas Bhinde, identified as the owner of the illegal hoarding that crashed on a fuel station in the Ghatkopar area of the western Indian city of Mumbai on Monday (13) afternoon amid strong winds and rain causing 14 deaths and more than 70 injuries, was booked in a rape case earlier this year by the city police.

According to a report by The Indian Express, court documents suggested that a case of rape and molestation was registered against Bhinde, 51, at Mumbai’s Mulund police station on January 24. He eventually got an anticipatory bail from the Bombay High Court. “A rape case was registered against him. A chargesheet has already been filed in the matter,” Ajay Joshi, senior inspector at Mulund Police Station was quoted as saying by the report.

After Monday’s incident, a first information report was filed against Bhinde, director of advertising agency Ego Media Pvt Ltd which had a contract for the billboard on a decade-long lease, by the Pant Nagar police station of Mumbai under the jurisdiction of which the collapse happened.

However, the police did not find him despite searching his residence in Mulund suburb, the Times of India reported. A team was formed to track him, police authorities said.

The Indian Express report also said that Bhinde had contested the 2009 state elections of Maharashtra as an Independent candidate and had 21 cases in which he was fined under the civic laws for putting up illegal banners.

India Weekly could not verify these reports independently.

The gigantic hoarding that crashed on Monday measured 120 by 120 feet as against the permissible size of 40 by 40 feet. It was even once recognised as India’s largest billboard in Limca Book of Records, reports said.

On Monday, Bhushan Gagrani, chief of the Mumbai civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), said the hoarding was illegal since the authorities had not given permission for its erection. He also said that the location where the collapse incident happened has four billboards set up on the land of the railways and one of them fell down. According to Gagrani, the BMC had been objecting to setting up the hoardings for a year.

Mumbai police commissioner Vivek Phansalkar said stern action would be taken against those responsible for the collapse incident.

“Heartfelt condolences to families who lost their loved ones in the unfortunate mishap at Ghatkopar. @MumbaiPolice team is on the spot in the rescue operation. We assure citizens that stringent legal action will be taken against those responsible for this mishap,” Phansalkar said in a post on the X.

Eknath Shinde, chief minister of Maharashtra, visited the site of the collapse late in the evening and asked for a structural audit of all hoardings in the city.

He also announced an aid of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of each of the persons killed in the incident.

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