Rajkot Game Zone Tragedy: Gujarat High Court Lashes Out On State Govt, Arrests Made, Officials Suspended

CCTV footage, captured the horrific moment when sparks from welding work ignited plastic materials, setting off a blaze that workers, paralyzed by panic, could not control.

Two days earlier Rajkot witnessed a devastating accident where a gaming zone witnessed a massive blast that claimed the lives of about 28 people including children.

However, the Gujarat High Court lashed out at the city’s municipal authorities for their failure to certify at least two similar establishments. The court’s ire was sparked by revelations that these gaming zones had been operating for over two years without the necessary permits, including fire safety certificates. The court expressed its dismay and distrust towards the state government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, after the Rajkot municipal body admitted, “our approval was not taken…”

“Has this been happening for two-and-a-half years? Did you just ignore it? What exactly do you and your team do?” the court thundered, referencing the unlicensed operations of the Rajkot gaming zone. The Rajkot gaming zone had been granted a license by local police in November last year, which was extended to December 31, 2024, as confirmed by Rajkot Police Commissioner Raju Bhargava.

The situation worsened for the municipal body when photographs surfaced showing officials at the gaming zone. The court angrily questioned, “Who were these officers? Were they there to play games?”

The court didn’t hold back its criticism of the state government either. “Are you blind? Did you fall asleep? We have lost trust in the local system and the state,” the court fumed when informed that fire safety certification hearings had been unresolved for four years.

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State government representative Advocate Manisha Luv Kumar Shah admitted that two other gaming zones in Ahmedabad were also operating without proper permissions. She stated that a special team had been assembled to investigate and report back within 72 hours.

The court learned that 34 mini-gaming zones inside malls, of which three lacked the mandatory no-objection certificate from the fire department, were under scrutiny. The state claimed that gaming zones cannot operate without such a certificate, prompting the High Court to retort, “Then why was this rule not enforced in Rajkot?”

In an effort to appease the court, the state mentioned that three gaming zone owners had been arrested, with more arrests pending.

The court pointed to a series of “many incidents” over the past four years, highlighting continued failures despite numerous decisions and instructions. Notable fire-related incidents in Gujarat since 2023 include a deadly blaze at a chemical factory in Surat, a fire at a city multiplex, a hospital evacuation in Ahmedabad, and a fatal fire at a hospital in Surat.

“People are dying due to the state machinery’s failures,” the exasperated court concluded.

Rajkot Gaming Zone Fire: A Tragic Tale of Negligence and Loss

On Saturday, a devastating fire erupted at a gaming zone in Rajkot, leading to a tragedy that has left the city in mourning. CCTV footage, captured the horrific moment when sparks from welding work ignited plastic materials, setting off a blaze that workers, paralyzed by panic, could not control. Sources suggest the fire may also have been triggered by an electrical short circuit.

As the fire spread, a temporary structure near the entrance collapsed, trapping many inside. The facility’s sole emergency exit proved insufficient, and while some fire safety equipment was present, the response was tragically inadequate. The inferno burned with such intensity that many victims’ bodies were charred beyond recognition, necessitating DNA tests for identification.

A Newly-Wed Couple Among the Victims

Among the deceased were Akshay Dholaria and his new bride, Khyati, along with her sister, Harita. Akshay, 24, had traveled from Canada to Rajkot to marry 20-year-old Khyati. The couple had just celebrated a court marriage a week before the disaster. Tragically, five members of the Jadeja family, including children aged 10 to 15, also perished in the fire.

Officials Suspended and Arrests Made

In the wake of the tragedy, six officials, including two police officers and three civic body officials, have been suspended for “gross negligence.” Charges of culpable homicide have been filed against the six partners who owned the gaming zone, with two arrests already made. Among those detained are Yuvrajsinh Solanki, one of the partners, and Nitin Jain, the facility’s manager.

Government Response

The state government has formed a five-member investigation team led by Additional Director General of Police Subhash Trivedi to probe the incident. Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has announced compensation of ₹4 lakh for the families of the deceased and ₹50,000 for the injured.

This tragic incident has not only highlighted severe lapses in safety and regulation but has also sparked a broader conversation about accountability and the need for stringent enforcement of safety standards.