March 5, 2021 4:04:59 am
A division bench of the Gujarat High Court expressed its “sadness” and “shock” upon knowing that nearly 5,200 schools in the state are operating without a valid fire safety no-objection certificate (NOC), in a hearing held on February 26.
A detailed order following the hearing, made public on Thursday, noted the state government’s submissions which was highlighted by advocate Amit Panchal, who had moved a PIL before the Gujarat HC following a fire in the ICU of Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad that killed eight patients.
Panchal, during the course of hearing had also expressed that this was “shocking and in utter disregard of the safety of children, studying in all such schools.”
These include 579 schools in Vadodara, 77 in Surat, 72 in Jamnagar, 152 in Junagadh, 461 in Rajkot, 28 in Gandhinagar and 3,830 schools in various municipalities and local bodies.
To this, the court directed the state to take “immediate action” in respect of the 5,199 schools which do not have a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate.
The court also observed in its order, “…it is extremely sad and shocking to know that there are 5199 schools in the State of Gujarat not possessing a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate with regard to the Fire Prevention and Protection Systems… How can one play with the innocent lives of the students studying in such schools. If no steps are taken in this direction at the earliest, then this Court may be compelled to ask the State Government to cancel the recognition of such schools… The government does not enforce fire safety and most schools still function without even the basic safety amenities. Schools must step up and take the responsibility to ensure that all possible safety precautions are maintained.”
The order of the bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh Vora added, “The school must have a particular method set in place for emergency evacuation of students and drills must be conducted on a frequent basis.”
Meanwhile, the state government through advocate general Kamal Trivedi also submitted before the court that the state government, “with all seriousness, is considering to adopt the Clinical Establishments (Registration & Regulation) Act, 2010” and “is very keen to adopt the same and frame appropriate rules in larger public interest.”
The bench observed in its order that, “on many occasions, we have tried to impress upon the State Government to adopt the Act.”
“We once again impress upon the state government to look into this issue and see to it that the State of Gujarat also adopts the Act,” the court recorded.
The court also reminded that the implementation of the Act may see “pressure from the private health-care providers who deliver the bulk of the health-care.”
“The push back, if any, from the private health-care should not deter the state government in implementing and adopting the Act 2010 at the earliest,” the bench added.
The state government also sought that all municipal corporations be added as party to the PIL following which the bench issued notice to the municipal corporations of Jamnagar, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Junagadh, Gandhinagar and Bhavnagar. The corporations are expected to respond to the averments by April 5. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has already been a party to the PIL since Shrey Hospital falls in its jurisdiction.
While the state government had submitted that at present there are 16,761 buildings in the state without fire NoC, this was contended by Panchal, who submitted that the number would be much higher.
The bench also directed the municipal corporations to place on record a list of high rise buildings (15 metres and 18 metres in height), special buildings, schools, hospitals, industries and factories within their jurisdictional limits specifically categorised as those which have a valid fire safety NoC and those which do not.
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