The Delhi High Court Monday pulled up a power company for providing electricity to coaching centres in Mukherjee Nagar area without any fire safety clearance and observed that discoms and its officers were “turning a blind eye” to the problem, which could result in a fire like in Surat.
Expressing displeasure over how the Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) and its officers were “doing nothing” to address huge electricity consumption by such institutions, a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar sought to know whether any action had been taken against such coaching centres in the last five years.
“The approach of your officers is — ‘my children are not studying there’… All coaching centres without permission of municipal corporation or fire clearance, their electricity should be cut forthwith,” the bench said.
A total of 22 people had died in the Surat fire in May.
The court’s oral observation came during hearing of PILs, one of which was represented by advocate Prashant Manchanda, against the illegal running of coaching centres in Mukherjee Nagar and a plea raising concerns about lack of fire safety measures in schools in the capital.
On issue of fire safety in schools, Delhi government additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan submitted that there were around 5,495 schools in the city, of which 3,008 were under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Education. Of the 3,008, 200 schools were in default of fire safety measures, and action, including withdrawal of recognition, was being considered.
On fire safety in coaching centres, Narayan told the court that the fire department had carried out an inspection of these institutions in May and June, and sought two weeks to file an affidavit indicating the results.
The bench then directed the fire department, TPDDL and the municipal corporations to carry out a fresh survey of the schools, coaching and tuition centres under their jurisdiction to identify those operating illegally, without fire safety clearance or other mandatory permissions, or were using more electricity than was permissible. The court directed authorities to file affidavits indicating the details it has asked for, and listed the matter for further hearing on September 18.
The bench said that coaching/tuition centres should be given an opportunity to conform to the law, but if they do not, they should be shut down.
All these centres have so many AC units. Any increase in load would lead to sparking or short circuit, resulting in a fire, like it happened in Surat.
It further observed that owners of these centres were not poor and were carrying out a “purely business/ commercial activity”.