Guj HC suggests hospitals, schools display fire safety status outside premises

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Ahmedabad, Jun 1 (PTI) The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday suggested that local authorities ask hospitals, schools and other establishments to display the status of their fire safety no objection certificates (NOCs) on a board outside their premises.

The division bench of Justice Bela Trivedi and Bhargav D Karia made the suggestion while hearing a PIL and related matters on the government's fire safety measures for buildings, especially hospitals and schools.

'Can anyone go to a hospital with no fire safety if a person knows there is no fire safety? Let hospitals put a board outside that there is no fire safety,' the bench said.

The state's local urban bodies informed the court that there are hundreds of hospitals, including COVID-19 hospitals, and government and private schools among other establishments that have no fire safety NOC or building use permission.

A fire safety NOC needs to be obtained after meeting compliance with the norms laid down for the same.

'Ask hospitals with no fire NOC to place flexi boards stating that they don't have fire safety. Then see how many patients get admitted there. Ask hospitals to put up a big banner saying they have a fire NOC till this period,' the court said.

When a building is being constructed, a board with details of the construction is put up outside, then why can't fire NOC information be displayed outside all structures? the benched asked.

'Who will send their children to schools if they know schools have no fire system? Let the citizens identify for themselves that (the buildings) have no fire system,' it said.

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation's (AMC) lawyer Mihir Joshi said there is no mechanism to know if a building has renewed the NOC (required after every year), but a system of online monitoring is being developed for the same.

The court suggested that the corporation work out a system using the details of tax collection.

Citizens are equally responsible for following rules related to NOCs, the bench said.

'There has to be a robust system in place for you to know immediately if a person does not renew an NOC. There also has to be a mechanism for taking action against a concerned officer who does not act after knowing there is no NOC,' it said.

A spate of deadly fire incidents has been reported at COVID-19 hospitals in Gujarat in the last few months, with the deadliest one in a Bharuch hospital on May 1, in which 18 people died.

In other incidents, eight COVID-19 patients were killed in a massive fire at a private hospital in Ahmedabad on August 6 last year, while five patients died when a blaze broke out at a private hospital in Rajkot on November 27, 2020.

The court is also hearing a linked plea on Bharuch hospital fire that seeks to hold government officials accountable for the incident.

The court wanted the affidavits of two fire officers who had visited the hospital on April 30 to inspect fire safety measures.

The local authorities had said that the new facility where the deadly fire occurred had no fire NOC. PTI KA PD ARU ARU

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