Rajkot Fire Tragedy: Police Commissioner, Other Top Cops Transferred; HC Pulls Up State Govt

Rajkot: Two days after a horrific fire at a gaming zone here claimed the lives of 28 people, included 9 children, Rajkot police commissioner Raju Bhargava was transferred on Saturday.

His replacement has been named — Brajesh Kumar Jha, Special Commissioner of Police from Ahmedabad – though Bhargava’s new posting is yet to be announced.

The police chief is not the only one to face action. Rajkot City’s Additional Commissioner of Police (Administration, Traffic and Crime) Vidhi Choudhary has also been moved out, without being assigned a new post yet.

Vidhi has been replaced by Mahendra Bagria, ex-Deputy Inspector General Kutch-Bhuj (West) zone.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Rajkot City, Zone 2) Sudhirkumar Desai has made way for Jagdish Bangwara, formerly Superintendent of Vadodara’s Central Prison. Desai, too, is yet to be given a new post.

Earlier in the day, Gujarat High Court came down heavily on Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) as major security lapses came to the fore in Saturday’s devastating fire.

A special bench comprising Justice Biren Vaishnav and Justice Devan Desai expressed lack of faith in the state machinery, questioning how a tragedy of such proportions could take place despite previous court orders.

The operators of the gaming zone – two of whom have been arrested so far — had not taken mandatory permissions and licences from RMC.

“All this was going on for two-and-a-half years, so did you fall asleep? Or did you go blind,” the high court rebuked officials.

When the counsel for RMC said that the gaming zone had not asked for permission, the court pointed out it was their responsibility too.

“Even after four years of our order, if no steps were taken in the matter of fire safety, then how is the RMC not responsible?” the bench said.

The high court took suo motu cognizance of the fire, and heard the matter in a special sitting on Sunday itself. The court termed it a “man-made disaster” where innocent lives were lost due to lack of adequate approvals from competent authorities.

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