Bombay High Court Refuses To Extend Deadline For Notifying New Fire Safety Rules

The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant more time beyond May 20 to the state government to notify the new fire safety rules and regulations, rejecting the “excuse” that the poll works would make the task difficult. The regulations were issued in 2009 in the aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks. However, the court had noted repeatedly that the government has been dragging it’s feet on the issue.

Govt’s timeline before HC

The Maharashtra government had submitted a timeline before the high court last December. According to the schedule, a notice to incorporate security rules in the Unified Development Control And Promotion Regulations and Development Control and Promotion Regulations, 2034, was January 22, 2024.

After calling for suggestions and recommendations, a modified proposal was to be put up before the Urban Development Department, which would then issue the final notification by May 20, 2024. The timeline was given in response to a 2019 PIL filed by Advocates Abha Singh and Aditya Pratap Singh, seeking enforcement of the safety regulations in buildings vulnerable to man-made disasters.

During the hearing on Friday, Additional Government Pleader Jyoti Chavan said that the issuance of the final notification may take time in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections. However, the bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor said that the upcoming elections can not be an excuse for not complying with the order. “You can’t give elections as an excuse for compliance with court orders,” remarked the CJ.

The HC, in December 2023, had directed that the timeline given by the government “shall be strictly followed by all concerned”. An affidavit was filed by the chief fire officer detailing measures taken to meet fire exigencies in Mumbai and the standard operating procedure followed by the civic body to tackle such mishaps. According to the affidavit, there are 35 fire stations and 19 mini fire stations in the city. The fire stations are equipped with fire engines, jumbo tankers, specialised appliances like fire robots, aerial ladder platforms, search cameras, among others, added the affidavit.

The standing fire advisory committee of government of India recommends a response time of 15-20 minutes in urban areas. “In Mumbai inland city, the response time on an average is 10-15 minutes and 15-20 minutes in the suburbs, depending on traffic movements and time of emergency,” the affidavit adds.

Affidavit suggestions filed by chief fire officer

– Conduct mock fire drills at regular intervals at all housing societies

– Step will help in swift evacuation, ensuring minimal loss of life and property

– Spreading awareness against negligence leading to fire mishaps

– Invitation of applications from general public to get registered as volunteer firemen

– Regular fire audit, electrical audit of buildings

– Most fires occur because of faulty or defective electrical installation

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