Pulling up the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) over the Shrey Hospital fire incident, a division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday directed the civic body to explain how a building permitted for residential use was converted as a hospital.
A fire in the intensive care unit of the private Covid hospital killed eight patients in August.
While hearing the victims of the incident, the division bench headed by Justice JB Pardiwala said that while payment of an impact fee permits regularisation of illegal construction, the designated use of a building, as defined by a Building Use (BU) permit, cannot be changed by paying the fee, said one of the victims’ representative who was present at the hearing.
Government counsels have been asked to obtain instruction and details of the same in this regard. The bench also expressed anguish at the loss of lives in the incident.
The Indian Express had reported on August 8 that Shrey Hospital ran as an unregulated health facility till 2016 though it was largely permitted for residential and commercial use. It started operations as a hospital in 1999, and illegal constructions were also made which were regulated only in 2016.
The building’s original ownership was with Panchratna Apartments Owners’ Association, which was leased to Bharat Mahant and other proprietors of Shrey Hospital in 1999. Initially, the building’s ground and part of the first floor were permitted for commercial use specified for shops and offices and the remaining floors for residential use. Subsequently, additional illegal constructions were made which they sought to regularise for the first time in 2001.
In 2011, Gujarat brought in the Gujarat Regularisation of Unauthorised Development (Impact Fee for regularisation of illegal properties) Act (GRUDA) wherein apart from the plan submitted and approved for building use (BU) permit, any addition or alteration could be legalised via paying a fee, calculated on the basis of area. The addition or alteration would be those permissible under General Development Control Regulation (GDCR) norms.
Once this Act came into effect, an application was moved in 2013 by the hospital to regularise the additional constructions in the building, under the category of “residential use”.
The ongoing hearing of the PIL moved by Gujarat HC advocate Amit Panchal to ensure implementation of fire safety rules and regulations across Gujarat highlighted before the bench that “there is little that has been done to fill the posts in the fire brigade departments of the various Municipal Corporations”, and that the “…court would be shocked to learn that there is not a single post of District Fire officer or Divisional Fire officer in any of the 32 districts/divisions in the state of Gujarat, which has been filled up as on date”.
Similar posts in the district/divisional offices including that of station officers , leading firemen, deputy accountants, clerks, etc., remain vacant.
Panchal, seeking compliance with earlier judgments passed by the Gujarat HC as well as the SC, also sought that details of buildings which do not have Building Use permit, be placed on the court’s records, exemplifying with the recent Pirana-Piplaj chemical factory blast that killed 13, and was found to have been operating illegally, without necessary permits. The matter has now been kept for further hearing for January 29, 2021.
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