Irked over complete inaction shown by the state government in finalising and implementing fire safety and other safety regulations in buildings vulnerable to man-made disasters, the Bombay High Court has observed that it has completely failed to exercise its duty for public interest.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MG Sewlikar, on Monday, directed the Maharashtra government to amend the Development Plan 2034 to include safety regulations for buildings vulnerable to fire, and other man-made disasters.
The court has also directed the government to incorporate the special regulations both in the 2034 Development Control and Promotion Regulations (DCPR), and the unified DCPR. “We direct the state to conduct a proper study and research and to take all steps to include the regulations and stipulations of the National Building Code in the DCPR 2034 and the Unified DCPR,” said HC.
The judges were even unsatisfied with the government's explanation that they haven't been able to implement the safety regulations since 2008 due to a fire at the Mantralaya building in 2012, in which the concerned records were destroyed.
“The apathy of the state government is telling. The state in its affidavit, refers to a fire at Mantralaya in which all documents from 2009 were destroyed. The State says there was no deliberate omission on its part, but because of destruction of record due to the fire, the issue remained unaddressed,” noted HC in its order.
The court further added: “We are constrained to observe that this is yet another case where the state government has failed to justify its complete inaction. Notwithstanding the fire, the state didn't find it difficult to come up with the 2034 Development Plan.”
The HC was hearing a PIL filed by advocates Abha Singh and Aditya Pratap Singh seeking enforcement of the safety regulations in buildings vulnerable to man-made disasters.
The government formulated the draft special safety regulations after the 26/11 terror attacks that took place in the city in 2008. These regulations were notified in February 2009, and soon after, the government called for objections and suggestions from the public. After public sent their suggestions and objections, nothing further was done.
The government informed the HC, in an affidavit, that it proposed to constitute another expert panel to come up with fresh safety regulations that will factor in “advanced technology”. The affidavit, filed by deputy director of Town Planning Shrikant Deshmukh, justified the inaction stating that its not as if the government has not deliberately addressed the issue, “but because of the documents/ decisions taken by the officers at the time, got destroyed (in Mantralaya fire), the issue never came up for consideration and hence the issue remained unaddressed”.
HC however, dismissed the submission saying that the state should have made earnest endeavours to implement the safety guidelines. It also took note of the National Building Code too provided for implementation of such safety norms.
The HC has directed the government to report on the developments made by July 18.