Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
News Updates

"How is This Permissible?": Gujarat High Court Expresses Shock Over Report That Over 5,000 Schools Functioning Without Fire Safety NOC

Akshita Saxena
4 March 2021 4:10 PM GMT
How is This Permissible?: Gujarat High Court Expresses Shock Over Report That Over 5,000 Schools Functioning Without Fire Safety NOC
x

The Gujarat High Court has expressed shock at the functioning of over 5,000 schools in the State without a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate with regard to the Fire Prevention and Protection Systems. A Division Bench comprising of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J. Vora sternly remarked, "How is this permissible? How can one play with the innocent lives of the...

The Gujarat High Court has expressed shock at the functioning of over 5,000 schools in the State without a valid and subsisting No Objection Certificate with regard to the Fire Prevention and Protection Systems.

A Division Bench comprising of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J. Vora sternly remarked,

"How is this permissible? 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 observation was made in a PIL filed by Advocate Amit Manilal Panchal seeking proper implementation of fire safety norms across all public accessible buildings in the State, in wake of the Shrey Hospital fire incident in Ahmedabad in August 2020, that took eight lives.

Earlier, the High Court had sought response form the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation with respect to hospitals, schools, etc. that are operating without NOCs.

Fire Safety at Schools

During the hearing held on February 26, the Division Bench was taken aback to note that 5199 schools lack fire safety measures. It noted that fire safety in schools is often a neglected element in India as there are no rules for checking this aspect and even the Government does not enforce the existing norms.

The Court has now asked the Gujarat Government to consider framing fire safety regulations in suit with the Haryana Government, which has notified a State Policy on the "Safety Measures in Government and Private Aided & Un-aided Schools" under which all Government and Private Aided & Un-aided Schools situated in Haryana are required to put in place prescribed minimum safety standards, in addition to those enshrined in the National Building Code of India, 2005.

The Division Bench observed that fire safety is an extremely important issue and Schools must step up and take the responsibility to ensure that all possible safety precautions are maintained.

It explained that in schools, a large number of children are gathered at one place and a single fire can affect all of them. it further noted that features like wooden furniture, canteens and chemistry labs also make schools prone and fire in such places can often go out of control.

Inter alia, the Court clarified that schools are entirely responsible for safety of children and they cannot expect the government to install any fire safety provisions. It has issued following directions:

  • Every school must take the necessary precautions in order to prevent anything untoward from happening in the case of an emergency, like a fire.
  • Every floor must have a fire extinguisher or at the very least sand banks must be set in place.
  • Teachers and non-teaching staff such as peons and other helpers must be instructed in the use of fire extinguishers.
  • Schools must have a particular method set in place for emergency evacuation of students and drills must be conducted on a frequent basis.
  • Schools must be in contact with emergency services like the fire and rescue department and ensure that they respond as soon as possible in case of an emergency.
  • Fire alarms must be placed at strategic points and they must be checked regularly.

Fire Safety at Hospitals

The Court, while dealing with implementation of fire safety norms in hospitals at Ahmedabad, also issued notices to eight other Municipal Corporations in the State including those of Vadodara, Surat, Gandhinagar, etc.

All these authorities have been asked to file details of hospitals and other high-rise buildings that are operating without fire safety NOC.

During the hearing, the Bench also impressed upon the State Government to adopt the Clinical Establishments Act, 2010, with a view to provide the minimum standards of medical facilities and services to the people at large.

The Act prescribes basic minimum standards for different categories of clinical establishments for ensuring provision of proper health-care by the clinical establishments. Its purpose is to make available a database of Clinical Establishments which are authorized to function.

While asking the Government to make an appropriate statement (by the next date of hearing) as regards adopting the Act, the Bench said,

"Since decades, the unorganized health sector has created major hurdles in the availability, accessibility and affordability of health-care to the common people. This Act would prove handy, as this would ensure the minimum standards to all the establishments providing health-care services. The mandatory registration of all types of health-care provisions will reduce quackery. There will be standardization of infrastructure, man power and working systems."

The Court added that the private health-care providers, who deliver the bulk of the health-care, may create hindrances in the way of the State Government in the implementation of the Act. however, the push back, if any, should not deter the State Government in implementing and adopting the Act at the earliest in the larger interest of the people.

The matter is now fixed for April 16.

Case Title: Amit Manilal Panchal v. State of Gujarat

Click Here To Download Order

Read Order


Next Story