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Business News/ News / India/  Mumbai hoarding collapse: Police intensifies hunt for billboard owner Bhavesh Bhinde, last traced to Lonavala
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Mumbai hoarding collapse: Police intensifies hunt for billboard owner Bhavesh Bhinde, last traced to Lonavala

Mumbai hoarding collapse: Bhavesh Bhinde was last traced to Lonavala on May 14, and three police teams were dispatched to arrest him. An officer told HT that cops are looking for him in Lonavala, Mumbai, Pune, various airports, and in Gujarat.

Bhavesh Bhinde, 51, was last traced to Lonavala on May 14. He is the director of Ego Media, who owns the 120x120 ft hoarding that collapsed in Ghatkopar, killing 16 people (Instagram)Premium
Bhavesh Bhinde, 51, was last traced to Lonavala on May 14. He is the director of Ego Media, who owns the 120x120 ft hoarding that collapsed in Ghatkopar, killing 16 people (Instagram)

Over ten police teams from Mumbai and Gujarat are on the hunt for Bhavesh Bhinde, the director of Ego Media, who owns the over 100-foot hoarding that collapsed in Ghatkopar, killing 16 people, Hindustan Times reported.

According to the report, Bhinde reportedly switched off his phone and fled the city as soon as reports about deaths from the billboard collapse emerged. Although his phone was briefly switched on in Lonavala on Tuesday evening, it has since been untraceable.

Bhavesh Bhinde is Being Tracked

Bhinde, 51, was last traced to Lonavala on May 14. An officer from Mumbai police’s crime branch told HT that three police teams were dispatched to the hill station, acting on this lead. Per the daily, officers are searching for Bhinde in Lonavala, Mumbai, Pune, various airports, and his native place in Gujarat.

The report added that despite police visits to his residence in Mulund and the homes of some of his relatives, Bhinde remains elusive. 

Pant Nagar police have registered a case against Bhinde under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

Bhavesh Bhinde's Criminal History

Bhinde has two other cases against him in Mulund: one for rape and molestation filed by a woman in his office in January 2024 and another for cheating registered in 2016.

Although he secured anticipatory bail from the Bombay High Court, the police filed a charge sheet against him in the rape case.

Before 2009, Bhinde was fined 21 times for various violations under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888. He also contested the Maharashtra assembly election as an independent candidate from Mulund in 2009.

BMC Responds: All Hoardings Need Structural Certificate

Expressing grief over the hoarding collapse incident, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Bhushan Gagrani described it as tragic in a statement to ANI on May 16. 

“This was a tragic incident in which 16 people died. The rescue operation has been completed. Here is an active petrol pump; that's why our rescue operation was delayed. All the hoardings need a structural stability certificate. They need to follow the specifications of size, foundation and the wind velocity that passes through to provide the necessary stability. Three more hoardings are being removed," he said.

Gangrani added that Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had ordered inspections of all hoardings.

CM Shinde announced an ex-gratia payment of 5 lakh to the deceased's next of kin and assured that the government would cover all medical expenses for the injured, as per ANI.

Investigation Regarding the Hoarding

Ego Media Private Limited, the advertising agency that installed a 120x120-foot advertising hoarding in Pant Nagar, is under investigation. During the storm on May 13, the hearing fell onto a busy petrol pump, trapping nearly 100 people underneath. Fourteen people lost their lives in the incident, and 74 others were injured.

The company had applied to the Limca Book of Records to recognise the hoarding as the largest commercial billboard in India. Mumbai Police told the paper they intend to check with the Government Railway Police (GRP), which owns the land, to ascertain if the structure size was specified in the deal with Ego Media, the HT report added.

The Mumbai police have approached several billboard contractors to understand the nature of their work and determine responsibility for the incident. 

While the local police are handling the case, the crime branch believes the investigation should be transferred to them due to the high death toll, it added.

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Published: 16 May 2024, 11:21 AM IST
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