In view of the increasing number of fire incidents in high-rises in the city, the Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to file an affidavit providing details of its measures to address fire emergencies in Mumbai and the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) followed by the civic body.
A division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor has also asked the BMC to inform about the number of existing fire stations, the staff deployed, and the response time taken by authorities after a fire breaks out.
PIL seeking enforcement of safety regulations in vulnerable buildings
The HC was hearing a 2019 PIL filed by advocates Abha Singh and Aditya Pratap Singh seeking the enforcement of safety regulations in buildings vulnerable to man-made disasters.
During the hearing on Friday, Government Pleader Jyoti Chavan submitted a timeline for notifying the new Fire Safety Rules and Regulations, which is May 20, 2024. Chavan stated that the action plan prepared by the Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department (UDD), was sent to the Chief Minister for approval, and the same is expected by January 15, 2024.
The government formulated the draft special safety regulations after the 26/11 terror attacks that occurred in the city in 2008. These regulations were notified in February 2009, and subsequently, the government called for objections and suggestions from the public. After the public submitted their suggestions and objections, nothing further was done.
Court questions govt
“After the recommendation of the committee, you (government) did not take a single step. The first step would be to invite suggestions (from the public). Why do you have to wait for court orders? Had you taken steps, it (safety rules) would have been published by now,” CJ said.
According to the timeline submitted by the state, a notice to incorporate security rules in Unified Development Control and Promotion Regulations (UDCPR) and Development Control and Promotion Regulations (DCPR), 2034, is expected by January 22, 2024. Following this, the procedures to be adopted by the Town Planning officer and UDD are expected to issue the final notification under the MRTP Act by May 20, 2024.
Court directs govt to file affidavit
The bench asked whether this timeline could be shortened; however, it emphasized that, in any case, it should be strictly followed. The court has directed the government to file an affidavit on the progress in adopting the guidelines.
It has also asked the petitioner to add the BMC Commissioner, Chief Fire Officer (CFO), and Director of State Fire Services/Fire Safety as respondents to the PIL. The court has also asked the BMC commissioner and the CFO to file their affidavits by the next date of hearing on January 30, 2024.