Rajkot Fire Tragedy: HC Pulls Up Rajkot Civic Body

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Rajkot Fire Tragedy: HC Pulls Up Rajkot Civic Body

| Updated: May 28, 2024 18:11

In a scathing attack on the state government, the Gujarat High Court on Monday said that it no longer has faith in the state machinery that gets into action only after lives are lost. The division bench of Justice Biren Vaishnav and Justice D M Desai was hearing the suo motu PIL on the TRP Gaming Zone fire tragedy in Rajkot on May 25 in which at least 30 persons, including children, lost their lives and several others are missing.

The victims were charred to death in a major fire that engulfed the gaming zone. Preliminary reports revealed that a spark from where wielding was being done led to the fire. The gaming zone did not have NOC from the Fire and Safety department. It also did not have fire fighting equipment to control the fire.

FIR has been filed and the accused have been remanded to 14 days of police custody. On Monday, the state government transferred Rajkot Police Commissioner and Rajkot Municipal Commissioner. Seven police and civic officials have been suspended.

The Rajkot Municipal Corporation was asked as to how it could be ignorant to the fact that the structure existed in its jurisdiction for three years without any permission by “turning a blind eye”.

Reports have indicated that it was only on May 9, 2024 that the police department had asked the Gaming Zone to furnish Fire NOC.

The High Court reprimanded the RMC for its inaction until the fire. This, after the civic body’s counsel submitted in the court that the go karting had begun on the plot in June 2021 and the structure came up one and a half years ago. The application for regularization of construction under The Gujarat Regularization of Unauthorized Development Act was made only on May 4.

The RMC counsel was told by Justice Vaishnav that the RMC chief had attended the inauguration of the gaming zone. He asked if they could not take judicial notice of the fact and what did the civic body do for 18 months. The Justice was referring the media reports.

While Justice Desai observed that for three years the RMC did not inquire into the legality of the structure, Justice Vaishnav said that the activity was “merrily going on without permission in front of the corporation”.

The bench said that honestly speaking they have no faith in the state machinery now. After four years of orders passed by this court directing them and after their assurances, this is the sixth incident that has happened. They only want lives to be lost and then trigger the machinery, the bench added. The bench said this when advocate D M Devnani while appearing for the HC said that the state government should ensure it will take firm measures to hold people accountable.

The Gujarat High Court sought affidavits from all the chief fire officers of Rajkot since June 2021, explaining their inaction. The High Court has also directed the chief fire officers of Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Surat to file affidavits on the fire safety measures taken under the Fire Safety Act. The court has also asked as to why action ought not to be taken against those responsible for disobeying the court order, if the law is not properly implemented.

The High Court said that in the order passed by this court on December 15, 2022, while taking on record the affidavits filed by the state of Gujarat and the respective corporations, it will be ironical to record the sentiments of the court when it observed that “it would be too much, or rather, it would amount to adding insult to injury to tell the kith and kin of all the victims who perished in different accidents of fire that take solace from the fact that the state government has appointed a commission of inquiry”.

The next hearing in the case has been posted for June 6 and the High Court has asked that all affidavits be submitted by June 3.

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