Since December 19, 2008, the Delhi Fire Services granted four fire-safety certificates or NoCs (No-Objection Certificates) to Hotel Arpit Palace, as it was found “complying with all requisite fire-safety requirements”. The 2008 certificate was renewed on November 11, 2011, December 12, 2014, and December 28, 2017. The eatery — Crossroads Resto and Bar — was also granted an NoC on May 20, 2016, valid for three years.
All four NoCs state that the fifth floor of the hotel is “closed with a brick wall”. However, on Tuesday, as a killer blaze engulfed the Karol Bagh hotel, a sprawling dining space on its terrace was found gutted. Authorities claimed they were kept in the dark about the new arrangement.
Both Delhi Chief Fire Services Director G C Mishra and Chief Fire Officer Atul Garg said the terrace arrangement “must have been a later addition”. Following his inspection, Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, too, said the structure on the terrace violated building bylaws.
A senior North civic body official said that as per municipal rules, hotels or restaurants cannot use the terrace for commercial purposes. The official said that the building was notified as an unauthorised construction in the civic body’s records and action was taken against it in the past, such as minor demolitions and filing of FIRs.
North body Mayor Adesh Gupta claimed a “Union government rule prevented it from being sealed”, and that things will be clear only after an inquiry.
The latest clearance, valid for three years under DFS Rules 2010, states that owners of the five-storey hotel, which also comprises a basement, “complied with fire prevention and fire-safety requirements” in accordance with Rule 33 of the DFS Rules, 2010, and the establishment is fit for “occupancy class residential (guest house)”.
The Indian Express accessed the inspection report, based on which the safety clearance was renewed in 2017, and found that the official in-charge — the then divisional officer, southwest — submitted that all fire protection measures were “found functional” during the time of inspection in the presence of hotel manager Rajendar.
The report states that the department checked all 12 requisite parameters — including access to building; number, width and arrangement of exits; smoke management system; fire extinguishers; first-aid hose reels; MOEFA (Manually Operated Electric Fire Alarm); PA system; automatic sprinkler system; and special fire protection systems.
The report states that the hotel “has two exits each for the upper floors and basement; a corridor width measuring 1.40 metres against the required 1.25 metres; one continuous staircase; and a 10,000-litre capacity water tank.
But on Tuesday, Delhi Police said that non-functional water sprinklers were among the deficiencies found in the hotel.
For buildings specified under Rule 27 of DFS Rules 2010, which cover hotels measuring over 12 metres in height, an NoC is required at two stages — one prior to construction, when building plans are approved, and secondly post-construction, which has to be renewed every three years.
North body standing committee member and AAP leader Vikas Goel, meanwhile, claimed that between 1993 and 1994, the hotel was booked five times for “unauthorised constructions”.
Mayor Gupta, however, said sealing could not be conducted now as there were no violations in the recent past, and it enjoys immunity due to special provisions till 2020 — which was attested to by North MCD commissioner Varsha Joshi.
The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Act extends immunity to some slums and unauthorised colonies in the NCR from punitive action till 2020.