THE housing and public works minister’s announcement of Wednesday at the launch of the ministry’s investigation report on the FR Tower fire, which on March 28 left 27 people dead, that punitive action would be taken against 36 officials of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, including some former officers who include the agency’s chair of the time, for their reported involvement in the illegal extension of the building at Banani appears to be assuring. What is more assuring is the minister’s announcement that this is for the first time owners of a building have been prosecuted, towards the end of March, on charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and causing death by negligence. The investigation of the housing and public works ministry has accused 29 Rajuk officials of allowing the illegal extension of the FR Tower and helping developers to forge documents and to take bank loans on mortgage of the extended floors. The Rajuk investigation has blamed 32 officials, including the chair, town planner and chief engineer of the time, for helping the developers in the illegal extension. Some names being common in both the investigation takes the total number of people accused to 36.
While the standard procedure has not been followed in the extension approval from 15 storeys to 18 storeys in 1996 — the National Building Code 1984 was followed, while the updated 1996 code had already been in place, to advantage the FR Tower owners, documents including building plan and bank deposit cheque against Rajuk account were forged in extending the building up to 23 storeys without approval. The land owner, who informed Rajuk of the illegal extension in 2015 but later received benefits from the extension, has also been blamed. Without taking any action, Rajuk then gave permission for bank loans on the mortgage of three of the illegally extended floors. The minister, making the investigation report public, said that legal action would be taken against officers who have already retired or are on leave prior to retirement but disciplinary action would be taken against officials still in Rajuk service. The housing and public works ministry would also request the public administration ministry to take action against the officers now having been posted to other ministries or agencies. This hardly sounds logical. When the crimes are the same, justice should be meted in the same manner. The officers still in service may face disciplinary action but they all should face the legal action, too, that others and the officers not in job now would face.
New Age on Thursday also reported that Rajuk had identified 475 high rises, including 44 government buildings, erected without any approval of either Rajuk or other authorities such as city corporations and municipalities. It is expected the owners of such buildings, on credible investigations, could also be prosecuted on charge of having the buildings erected illegally at least. And the government must ensure that all the offenders of the FR Tower case must face similar legal action. Selective justice, by way of disciplinary action for people still in service, would harm justice dispensation.
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