The apex court on Monday asked the Union government to respond to a PIL alleging blatant violation of fire safety norms specified in the National Building Code, 2016, by builders and shocked the court by saying even the SC and Parliament buildings did not abide by the fire safety norms.
Parag Tripathi, a senior advocate appearing for PIL petitioner 'United Human Rights Federation', told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that real estate developers, either knowingly or unknowingly, violated fire safety norms, putting to risk the lives of people who bought houses in residential complexes. He alleged that there appeared to be a collusion between authorities and developers in grant of fire safety clearance.
Though the petitioner made all states and Union Territories parties in the PIL, the bench said it would seek response only from the Union government for now. The PIL, filed through advocate V K Biju, said that every year, approximately 25,000 persons died or suffered injuries from fire accidents in buildings.
"A total of 20,377 cases of fire accidents were reported in India in 2014, in which 19,513 died and 1,889 were injured. More than 18 per cent of these fire accidents were reported from residential buildings. Maharashtra with 4,805 fire accidents in 2014 accounted for nearly 24 per cent of the total such incidents," the NGO said.
What took everyone by surprise was the assertion in the PIL that "there are flagrant violations in the buildings of the Supreme Court and Parliament House as far as fire safety management is concerned". The NGO cited newspaper reports to back its claim.
The petitioner sought strict implementation of the SC's 2009 judgment post a fire tragedy in a school in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, where 93 students were charred to death. The SC had ordered:
- Before granting recognition or affiliation, state governments and Union Territories are directed to ensure that buildings are safe and secure from every angle and they are constructed according to the safety norms incorporated in the National Building Code of India.
- All existing government and private schools shall install fire extinguishing equipment within a period of six months.
- School buildings be kept free from inflammable and toxic material. If storage is inevitable, they should be stored safely.
- Evaluation of structural aspects of the school may be carried out periodically. We direct that the engineers and officials concerned must strictly follow the National Building Code. Safety certificate be issued only after proper inspection. Dereliction in duty must attract immediate disciplinary action against the officials concerned.