The BMC on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that it would not allow Orchid City Centre Mall in Mumbai Central, which witnessed a major blaze last month, to be reoccupied until the building is inspected and a no objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department of the civic body is obtained.
The civic body’s counsel made a statement before a division bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice R I Chagla, which was hearing an interim application of four shopowners, in view of the fire that broke out at a mobile accessories shop on the second floor and spread further.
Fifty-six hours after it broke out on October 22 night – one of the biggest fires in the city this year – the blaze was extinguished only on October 24 morning.
The interim application by the four shopowners sought fire prevention and safety measures for the mall, including its sealing as per the 2006 occupation plan (number of shops sanctioned) prepared by the BMC and the demolition of the illegal constructions carried out by the developer in the mall.
The plea said that as Covid-19 restrictions were in place and the fire started during the closing hours of the mall, there was no loss of human lives, and 300 people could be rescued without suffering any serious injuries.
The applicants have sought action against alleged illegal construction carried out by the developer, Neelkamal Realtors and Builders Private Limited, and raised concerns over unlawful sale and storage of cellular phones and lithium batteries in the premises.
The interim plea was moved in a pending petition filed by the applicants in 2018, seeking directions to the BMC and its chief fire officer to take immediate steps for prevention of fire and demolition of illegal constructions apprehending that the failure to do so would cause loss of lives in the mall and those of occupants and residents of Orchid Enclave residential building above it.
The plea has raised grievances over alleged illegal construction of over hundred shops and questioned why the BMC had given the developer 15,000 sq ft FSI area free to construct those shops. It raised the contention that despite the occupation certificate being granted in 2006, as per the plan sanctioned the same year, fresh plans were sanctioned by BMC from 2014. The applicants claimed that as per the 2006 plan, 344 shops were permitted to be constructed, but 1,233 shops were constructed in the mall at the end.
While stressing on the importance of compliances, advocate Jamshed Mistry, appearing for the applicants, said that the fire brigade was called for a “level 5” blaze on October 22, in which fire engines from across the city and other agencies are called in for rescue operation.
Senior counsel Milind Sathe, representing BMC, said, “Until the building inspection is carried out in respect of its construction in accordance with the sanctioned plan and requirements of fire NOC are complied with, reoccupation will not be allowed by the BMC.”
The HC posted further hearing for December 7.