Need amendment to allow sealing of eateries without fire NOC: Bombay HC

Mumbai: A bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday told the state government that an amendment was required to the corporation laws to allow the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to seal eateries that are functioning without fire licences.

Currently, the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act and the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act only allows the civic body to impose fines against illegal or unlicensed eateries and to seize their movable properties.

“Where (in an eatery) there is no fire permission at all, can we not assume that the Chief Fire Officer is not satisfied about the fire safety and close it down?,” Justice B P Colabawalla inquired with Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, whose assistance the bench had sought during the last hearing.

To this, the AG said they (BMC) will still have to inspect the establishment and there is no power to seal it. To this, Justice Colabawalla remarked that allowing such an establishment to carry on with its business ‘is reacting rather than acting!’

Justice S J Kathawalla said the need of the hour is an amendment in the Corporation Act, so that the BMC can seal premises that are operating without licences.

When asked by the court whether the State could come out with a circular, Kumbhakoni said that the State would have to come out with an ordinance.

Justice Kathawalla said that many restaurants were operating in this manner and after the Kamala Mills fire, it was the need of the hour to stop such incidents by an amendment or an ordinance. “Let us catch the bull by its horns by an ordinance or amendment,” Justice Kathwalla said.

Kumbhakoni sought ten days time to look into the matter. The hearing was then adjourned to March 2.

The bench was hearing a plea by Kabita Jalui, the owner of Evershine Millenium Paradise building in Kandivili, where a restaurant has allegedly been operating without a licence since 2014. She has sought that the restaurant Aamantran be shut down.