Home India News 11-member committee to probe Stephen Court fire

11-member committee to probe Stephen Court fire


Kolkata : About a week after the killer fire at Kolkata’s iconic Stephen Court, the West Bengal government Monday formed an 11-member probe panel to look into all aspects of the tragedy and fix responsibility for any negligence on the part of state agencies, landlord or tenants.

“To investigate various aspects of the devastating fire, an 11-member enquiry committee has been formed, which will submit a report within three months after examining all sides,” Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty told reporters at the state secretariat Writers’ Buildings on a day bodies continued to be unearthed from the debris taking the toll in the March 23 inferno to 43.

The committee will be headed by former home secretary Sourin Roy and include ex-director general of state police Dinesh Vajpai, secretaries of municipal affairs, legal, civil defence and power departments besides the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) municipal commissioner, fire services director general and a civil or electrical engineering professor of Jadavpur University.

The committee would look into the preparedness of Kolkata Police and KMC in handling the blaze and rescuing people.

“It will examine the legal condition of the building and the nature of modification and alteration that was carried out in later years and also look into whether there was any negligence on the part of the landlord or tenants in Stephen Court,” he said.

Earlier, there was confusion on the nature of the enquiry, with two senior bureaucrats talking of a commission and an enquiry committee.

The government’s decision came a day after the state’s principal opposition parties Congress and Trinamool Congress demanded immediate setting up of a probe panel to unearth the reasons for the fire.

Going a step further, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had demanded a judicial inquiry under a sitting judge or an impartial probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Soon after the tragedy, the fire services department had faced criticism for its under-preparedness and lack of proper equipment to fight a conflagration of such magnitude.

The KMC drew flak once it emerged that the top two floors were built illegally.

Speaking in the state Assembly, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee conceded the existence of a vicious cycle that allowed construction of floors on buildings like Stephen Court without fire safety measures and said investigation was on to find how the two top floors added to the building in 1984 got KMC clearance.

Built by Armenian Stephen Arathoon in 1910, Stephen Court also housed the iconic Flurys tea room, the famous eatery Peter Cat, besides Cafe Coffee Day and One Step Up restaurants.