The Bombay High Court on Monday said the fire in the Kamala Mills compound on December 29 last year offered the city an opportunity to ensure that such a tragedy would not be repeated and constant monitoring should be carried out to avoid such incidents in the future.
A division bench of Justices R M Borde and R G Ketkar was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former Mumbai Police commissioner Julio Ribeiro, seeking a judicial inquiry into the incident in which 14 people died after a fire broke out in two adjacent resto-bars, 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro.
The court questioned how the establishment was permitted to operate on the terrace of the building. “A terrace does not belong to one person, it is a common amenity which are the rights of the tenants… common area should be enjoyed by all occupants of the building,” Justice Borde said. Anil Sakhre, counsel for the BMC, informed the court
that there was a policy on rooftop restaurants.
Sakhre also informed the court that some fire officials were among the accused in the case, and that 12 municipal officials had been chargesheeted by the BMC. “Some of the officials are also suspended. Nobody is protected,” Sakhre told the court. The court asked Sakhre to submit all the licences granted to the two pubs where the fire broke out.
The court said, “This incident has given you an opportunity to improve your system. Stakes are high as it is about citizens’ safety, which is of the utmost importance.” There should be comprehensive checks of the area, the court said.
The court stressed that it was time the civic body and the state government set up an independent mechanism to regulate and monitor such places. “There has to be constant monitoring or else it will keep happening. We expect you to give us a permanent mechanism for monitoring,” court said. The HC posted the petition for hearing on February 14.