June 12, 2021 1:29:23 am
A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday told the state government and municipal corporations to ensure that fire no-objection certificates (NOC) are not issued to buildings without a building use (BU) permit.
The bench of Justices Bela Trivedi and Bhargav Karia were hearing a public interest litigation moved by advocate Amit Panchal as party-in-person, seeking fire safety compliance in buildings across the state, especially in hospitals and schools.
During the course of the hearing, advocate general Kamal Trivedi, representing the state government, submitted that issuance and granting of fire NOCs to schools and hospitals will be prioritised now onwards.
The bench however informed the government counsel that the issue of fire NOC has to be seen in conjunction with the absence of valid BU and thus buildings without a valid BU permit cannot be granted fire NOC.
Following the bench’s statement, the AG however requested that for the time being, the state may be permitted to focus on only grant of fire NOC as also ensuring BU permission simultaneously would be “perhaps a complicated proposition”.
“If there is no BU, that building is perhaps not capable of being regularised today and that building has to go — either demolished or sealed… BU issue has to be addressed too…I do not say illegality should be condoned…but we need some time,” AG Trivedi added.
However the bench said, “Why do you make rules? You might as well delete the (concerned provision) from the GPMC (Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations’) Act. When you have a provision in the Act, you have to see to it that those provisions don’t just remain on paper…how can you feel helpless, merely because a number of buildings have been constructed illegally (by now)? Both – fire NOC and BU — has to be taken simultaneously…do you propose to grant fire NOC to buildings without a valid BU permit? There are a number of hospitals running from residential premises. Will you allow them to continue with valid fire NOC? It is a failure on the part of municipal corporations and municipalities for not discharging their statutory functions (with respect to valid BU permits).”
Senior advocate Mihir Joshi, who is representing Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC,) suggested to the bench, “BU can be divided into priority with corporations sitting down with state and identify buildings…those coming up in the last 3 years can be identified and (authorities) can see for nature of deviation, or the public safety violation — say, hospital, theatre etc — can be taken up in priority and steps can be taken for sealing or any other…As far as BU is concerned, it is a problem of our making…”
While the bench insisted that “something drastic has to be done” and that one “cannot bifurcate fire NOC and BU separately,” AMC and state requested the court to reconsider its decision as “fire NOC is imperative now.”
The bench has granted the state and municipal corporations four weeks’ time to chalk out a detailed plan of action with regard to dealing with buildings without valid BU permissions.
The bench in its order has also recorded, that before the next date of hearing a policy is worked out with a plan of action with time schedule, by the government authorities , to addess the issue of BU permission in the state.
In the interim, the bench suggested that issuance of fire NOC be looked at as a function of two categories — one for buildings with valid BU permit and a second category of buildings with invalid BU or no BU permit.
“You can start (issuing) fire NOC for buildings with valid BU permission but as far as buildings with invalid or no BU permission, things (with respect to fire safety certification) has to go simultaneously…for that purpose you cannot say you will issue fire NOC to those without valid BU under the garb of fire safety,” the bench said.
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