Bombay High Court stresses on importance of fire safety norms

Published on: 02-Aug-2019, 12:11 PM     

PIL by Ribeiro: Bombay High Court stresses on importance of fire safety norms
While notices were served to establishments, the petition said notices were issued as an insurance and was an illusion. Hence, it is utmost necessary for this court, in public interest to take cognisance and monitor whole process of investigation.
The Bombay High Court Tuesday said there must be some regulation by authorities when they grant permission to commercial establishments. The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation seeking a fire safety audit of all restaurants and bars, which have been issued licence to serve food or alcohol by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, in light of the fire at Kamala Mills.
Blaming the fire at Kamala Mills on wilful, negligent and neglectful attitude by the authorities and restaurant owners, former Commissioner of Police Julio Ribeiro has, through a PIL, sought a ward-wise fire safety audit.
When authorities permit commercial establishments, then there has to be some regulations. There has to be sufficient access to public and sufficient space for fire engines to come and go, in case of emergencies, said Justice RM Borde.
The petition further seeks setting up a Judicial Commission for fixing accountability of public officers and private persons involved in the incident and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising IPS officers not below the rank of Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) for continuing the present investigation in all the FIRs registered by the police.
The fire at Kamala Mills took place around midnight – in the intervening night of 29 and 30 December – at two restaurants, 1Above and Mojo Bistro, causing the death of 14 people and leaving 50 people injured.
Referring to media reports, the petitioner states that, The petitioner was shocked, anguished and surprised at the glaring negligence and deliberate omissions by the public officers to comply with fire safety norms laid down under various acts and issued by appropriate authorities, thereby causing death of 14 innocent people.
While notices were served to the establishments, the petition said notices were issued as an insurance and was an illusion. Hence, it is utmost necessary for this court, in public interest to take cognisance and monitor the whole process of investigation.
Pointing to the demolition action carried out by the civic body after the incident, Ribeiro said, It is glaringly clear after going through the reports that the BMC appears to have had prior knowledge of the illegalities and flouting of fire safety norms in these places as such a huge crackdown on the said illegal structures was done within a day or so of the incident.
Moreover, the exit door of the restaurant 1Above was bolted from outside, which resulted in delay in the evacuation process. Also, the passage between the two restaurants, Mojo’s Bistro and 1Above was very narrow and Fire Brigade officials found it difficult to use it as the flames had covered the area entirely, said the petition. The matter is likely to come up for hearing next Monday.
Several Buildings, Including SC And Parliament Not Fire-Safe: Petition Filed In SC; Notice Issued
The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice on a petition demanding implementation of the National Building Code to prevent fire tragedies in several buildings throughout the country, including the preme Court of India and the Parliament. The notice was issued by a Bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud on a PIL filed by NGO, United Human Rights Federation, which was represented by Senior Counsel V. Giri and Advocate V.K. Biju.

Highlighting the repercussions of such violations, it submits, Such illicit constructions affect evacuation plans during an urgent situation are posing safety concerns and life threats. Escalators or lifts cant be taken as reliable sources to evacuate as early as possible as compared to staircases at the time of emergency. But, hardly any one finds sufficient staircases in an airport. Further, the petition lists down the safety measures provided in the code, like provision for fire-lifts in high-rise buildings, fire-escape in buildings for emergency situations and storage of heavy static water in underground tanks. These measures, it claims, are regularly flouted by developers, leading to buildings such as that of the Supreme Court of India as well as the Parliament not being fire-safe. It submits, There are blatant violations in the buildings of Hon’ble Supreme Court and Parliament House as far as the Fire Safety Management concerns. As while pursuing the extensive research on fire safety issues in India, the petitioner has encountered with the news of unsafe conditions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and Parliament house, the two utmost important building resembling the symbol of democracy. Such contraventions, it contends, are a clear violation of the rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India. It in fact alleges that the rules are defied in connivance with government authorities, claiming, … the provisions of the National building code as amended time to time upto 2016 is blatantly violating by the speculative developers / contractors / owners in connivance with the govt. authorities and thereby about 25 lacs people were losing their lives in different type of fire accidents tragedies… …the existing guidelines, acts, codes, bye laws and rules are stale in the absence of proper implementing authorities, and also the existing authorities have failed honour their duties in the utmost respect of the constitutional provisions…(sic) The petition therefore demands a Centralised Audit Mechanism for a quarterly or yearly audit of existing buildings, as well as implementation of a third party audit mechanism of high rise buildings in India after completion of their construction. Besides, the petition seeks a direction to the authorities to seal constructed buildings which are found to be violating the laws, and carry out an investigation before granting permissions for such projects. The completion and occupation certificates have also been demanded to be issued only on the developer demonstrating that the building has been constructed in accordance with the requirements of the National Building Code of India. In the same leaf, fire insurance coverage has been suggested to be made mandatory for all shopping complexes, buildings, malls, banquets and schools. Further, punitive measures have been demanded to be made stricter, with violations being responded with temporary or permanent cancellation of licenses. 

Massive forest fire in Uttarakhand causes damages worth lakhs
According to the forest department of Uttarakhand, 3399 hectares forest cover has been gutted in 1451 forest fire incidents in the state this year.
Loss of Rs 63.40 lakh had been calculated. The forests of Garhwal and Shivalik have been affected the most.
A total of 2321 hectares of forest land of Garhwal and Shivalik region have been affected in 976 fire incidents this year and this has resulted in economic loss of around Rs 43.94 lakh. The Kumaon region has recorded a loss of Rs 17.11 lakh where 846.13 hectares of forest land had been gutted.
Wildlife sanctuaries have been burnt too. 125.13 hectares of reserved forest has been burnt leading to a loss of Rs 23000 lakh. A majority of fire was reported from Pauri Garhwal (579) Almora (186) Uttarkashi (163).
To combat these losses the forest department has released Rs 12.5 crore from the state budget and Rs 1.75 crore from CAMPA.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat when inquired about the incidents said, The government is trying to control the fire incidents and to some extent we have been successful too.
However, minutes after saying this, fire increased in two more districts.
Former CM of uttarakhand Harish Rawat, said, It is not a new issue for the state. According to Rawat, the problem must be understood first. The government has done nothing except giving political speeches. The air force has only been requested to arrive but during our tenure the air force was summoned without any delay. Therefore, the former government was more successful in tackling the fire.
The fire must be prevented as soon as possible. The more delay, the more loss of life and property. Out of 13 districts in the state, 10 are burning right now.
The affected districts in Garhwal region are - Haridwar, Uttarkashi, Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, Chamoli Kumaun region - Nainital, Bageshwar, Champawat, Almora.

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