Bombay High Court Raps BMC, Fire Dept For Taking Fire Safety Lightly

Bombay High Court Raps BMC, Fire Dept For Taking Fire Safety Lightly

The HC was hearing a petition by an ophthalmologist, Rahul Jain, running an eye hospital on the ground floor of the building.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, January 12, 2024, 10:31 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File

The Bombay High Court on Friday came down heavily on the BMC and the fire department for taking the issue of fire safety lightly while granting permission to a housing society to set up a cantilever or stack parking which blocked access to the building. 

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata also took a strong exception to the fire department’s contention that the building – Reserve Bank India Employees’ Ashish Cooperative Housing Society Ltd, in Borivali West – was 13-storeyed and hence its fire tenders had access to it from the main road. 

“...We know of no principle in law by which the fire safety of those living in buildings of less than 13 floors can be said to be less important than the safety of those living in high-rises,” the court noted in its order. 

The judges also remarked that merely because the builder had paid a fire safety premium to the civic body for additional construction, fire safety could not be abandoned. “The suggestion that every violation, transgression or deviation from well established safety norms can be condoned in exercise of discretionary powers simply by taking money is so utterly reprehensible, we dare say that no court would countenance it,” it added. 

The HC was hearing a petition by an ophthalmologist, Rahul Jain, running an eye hospital on the ground floor of the building. He challenged the approval by the BMC and the fire department of seven mechanised cantilever car parkings that leaves no mandatory open space for fire engines/ambulances to enter the building, violating various fire safety and building regulations.

The doctor purchased his premises in 2019. The developer submitted an amended plan in 2021 that involved the construction of two additional floors, which meant providing additional parking.

Photographs submitted show access was blocked

His counsel Abhinav Chandrachud and advocate Mhatre submitted photographs which clearly showed that the access was blocked. They said that the permission was granted after the developer paid a premium. 

The BMC’s affidavit claimed that the concessions were granted by the civic chief in 2013 itself and that all amended plans were in compliance with the Development Control Plan 2034. For its part, the fire department claimed there were no fire safety violations. Moreover, as the height of the building was under 32mt it could be accessed from the main road. Also, the authorities further claimed that a small ambulance could always fit below the cantilever.

“We will have quite a lot to say about the affidavits filed by the MCGM and by the Deputy Chief Fire Officer. This is because… photographs annexed to the MCGM’s own affidavit, it is abundantly clear that stack parking as provided completely obstructs the entrance driveway of the Society building and obstructs significantly even foot access to the petitioner’s premises,” the bench said. 

The society was not represented by any advocate despite notice being served by the petitioner in December. “The removal of the cantilevered parking will affect the society. We propose to give it one more opportunity to remain present,” the HC said while keeping the matter for hearing on January 18. 

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