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October 9, 2017
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SP held responsiblefor delay in cinema fire case

Lahore

October 9, 2017

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LAHORE :Punjab Forensic Science Agency has held SP Civil Lines responsible for the 14-month delay in submitting the samples and evidences collected from cinema in Garhi Shahu following the huge fire which erupted under mysterious circumstances on June 07, 2016.

According to the Control of Narcotic Substances Act, 1997, which is also applied for the collection of forensic evidences, the samples/evidences should be submitted to the lab concerned within 72 hours of the incident.

Interestingly, even after this lapse four vital evidences have yet to be submitted to the Forensic Science Agency for analysis due to the reasons best known to SP Civil Lines and investigating officer. Sources told The News the vital evidences have gone missing from the store of Racecourse police station.

Lahore Police Chief has not held any inquiry into the issue so far to determine whether it was a willful delay due to some political pressure or there was any some other reason to hold the samples for such a long period.

The timely submission of forensic evidences could have helped in proving whether the fire incident was accidental or the cinema was put on fire intentionally for vested interests. The owner of the cinema termed this delay criminal negligence and demanded inquiry into it for justice.

The PFSA provided the copy of the report to the owner of the cinema with a covering letter of Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) on September 26, 2017, with the Subject: Writ Petition No 34942/2017 Aalia Taj VS Punjab Forensic Science Agency Etc.

The letter, copy of which is available with The News, reads: “It is stated that the matter (was) referred to the department concerned i.e. Crime Scene Investigation for the status of the case property. In response, the in-charge of the unit concerned reported that their team on 7th & 8th of June, 2016 visited the crime scene and after collecting evidence from the crime scene handed it over to Mr Nazir Ahmad (SI) Police Station Racecourse, Lahore. Thereafter, undersigned (Legal Adviser PFSA) contacted SP Civil Lines through different letter of different date for the status of submitted samples/evidence to PFSA if any.

Consequently, the evidence/case property was submitted first time on 02.08.2017 at PSFA by Muhammad Nazir (SI). After analysis the report has been transmitted to the SP Civil Lines Lahore concerned on 08.08.2017”.

A scientist working in the Agency, requesting anonymity, said the delay in collection or submission of forensic evidences at the respected lab results in loss of evidence in some cases due to the moisture or leakage of sealed packages. He said the samples need proper storage/temperature for original preservation.

According to the Trace Chemistry Analysis Report based on the eight samples/evidences submitted after 14 months of the incident by Racecourse police station, the following evidence items were submitted on August 02, 2017 by Muhammad Nazir (SI) at PFSA Evidence Receiving Unit along with the request of SP Civil Lines Division Lahore: 1: A sealed metal can said to contain “Debris collected from east wall of main entrance side”. 2:  A sealed metal can said to contain “debris collected from west wall of main entrance side”

3: A sealed metal can said to contain “debris collected from centre of east wall”. 4: A sealed metal can said to contain “debris collected from centre of west wall”. 5: Missing in the report as the item number jumped from 4 to 6. 6: A sealed metal can said to contain “debris collected from west wall screen side”. 7: A sealed metal can said to contain “debris collected from west wall gallery”. 8: A sealed metal can said to contain “debris collected from east wall gallery”.

The report says the n-pentane extracts of item 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were examined by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer and according to the result, no ignitable liquid residue was identified in the aforementioned items.

According to the Crime Scene Investigation report, copy of which is available with The News, the crime scene unit (CSU) processed the scene on June 08, 2016 (second day of the fire incident). Photography and documentation of the scene was done. The CSU collected evidence from various affected locations of the building. All the evidence was packaged, sealed, labelled and documented by CSU team and handed over to police official concerned on spot for further submission to the lab for analysis.

Other than the aforementioned items/samples, the CSU team had collected four more evidences which police have not submitted so far. The missing samples included 238 photographs, debris collected from main hall near eastern wall of screen side for trace analysis, swab collected from air conditioning duct for trace analysis and swab collected from motorbike (from outside of eastern wall of main hall) for Trace analysis. It is pertinent to mention that even after the lapse of 14 months the evidences were submitted to the Agency on the orders of Lahore High Court following a petition and then on contempt of court.

Police had only registered a rapt No 13 of the incident on June 09, 2016 according to which the main line of Wapda and generators were off as there was no cinema show time at the time of the incident. Police termed the incident in its report based on application of security in-charge of cinema that it seemed someone intentionally set the cinema ablaze. But even then police restrained from registering FIR of the incident till date.

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