Kerala Secretariat fire: police contest forensic lab report

The State police have contested the Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) report that debunked the government’s theory that electrical malfunction had caused the controversial fire at the Secretariat here in August.

The FSL had concluded that a visual and microscopic examination of the electric fan from which the fire had supposedly spread to the hall did not reveal an electrical short circuit as the cause.

The police have sought the services of the FSL in New Delhi to conduct an auger electron spectroscopy test on the circuitry and devices seized as evidence to establish the cause of the fire. The State FSL lacked the facility.

Findings of agencies

The FSL’s conclusion was also in variance with the findings of the Fire and Rescue Services Department and Electrical Inspectorate. Both agencies had said that non-stop operation had caused the circuitry of the 2013-model electric fan to heat up and melt.

The agencies identified the fan as the point of ignition. They traced the fire-flow path from the fan to a bundle of papers kept on a shelf directly below it.

No proof for arson

The police had found no evidence that pointed to an act of arson or vandalism. Investigators had verified the identity of 30,000 mobile phone users who were in the Secretariat locality at the time. The police found two empty liquor bottles in the hall. They had urged the government to conduct an internal probe.

The conflagration had occurred around 4.40 p.m. on August 25. It had broken out in the protocol section that housed records relating to foreign visits by Ministers, transactions of the government with foreign entities, details of persons accorded VIP status and information regarding duty exemption granted to foreign missions.

Opposition charge

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had seized on the fire as proof of a government plot to destroy evidence in the UAE gold smuggling case. They unleashed a wave of aggressive street protests accusing the government of arson and wilful sabotage.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and BJP State president K. Surendran said in separate statements that the FSL’s finding validated the sabotage theory.

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