News Column

Collapsed mall man fights bid to jail him

February 17, 2014

Durban businessman Jay Singh's son, Ravi Jagadasan, the developer of the collapsed Tongaat Mall, is fighting the city's contempt of court application to have him jailed.

He says he was not served with the interim or final orders to stop construction at the site.

Jagadasan says the application is motivated purely by the city's need for "punishment".

This is the upshot of an affidavit he filed on Friday to oppose an application by the eThekwini Municipality to have him and his company, Rectangle Property Investments, held in contempt of court for ignoring interdict |orders granted by the Durban High Court to stop work at the mall.

The municipality brought an urgent application earlier this year for the interdict, arguing that the company had no approval to begin work on its R208 million development.

In papers filed in response to the urgent application, Jagadasan said: "There is no danger to members of the public or any other persons in relation to this project."

He also claimed that the interdict application was "an abuse of the court process".

The interim interdict was granted in September after the city argued in court papers that Rectangle had no approved plans for the site and had ignored stop work notices.

Two people were killed and 29 were injured when a portion of the mall collapsed on November 19 last year.

The city had obtained the final order five days before the collapse.

In his replying affidavit in the contempt application, Jagadasan said the municipality had not alleged that he had been served with the orders.

"I was not served with the interim order or final order. Despite this lack of knowledge, I am now to be imprisoned."

He added that even if he had been served with the orders, he did not "cause the first respondent (Rectangle Property) to disobey" it.

He said the city's contention was that he "must have known" about the final order because of a letter written by Kershnie Govender, a representative of his former attorneys, Rajan Naidoo and Company.

In that letter, which was sent to the municipality shortly before the final order was granted, Govender said the interim order had been "relief in final form" and there was "no reason" for the company to attend court on the return date, November 14.

Jagadasan said the letter was "never brought to his attention" and Govender also submitted an affidavit last Friday to confirm the assertions made by him.

While Jagadasan says that Rajan Naidoo and Company are no longer his attorneys for this application, the firm is still representing Rectangle Property and his other company, Gralio Precast, at the commission of inquiry to investigate whether any negligence led to the mall collapse.

He said as a result of the inquiry, all building had ceased and the site would probably be "condemned".

"There is little chance that any further building will take place. The application is purely punitive… the punishment is not calculated to coerce the respondents to comply with the (interdict) orders."

The application was adjourned indefinitely.

The commission of inquiry into the collapse of the mall will resume in April.

The Mercury

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Source: Mercury, The (South Africa)

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