The Delhi High Court, on Tuesday, issued notice to the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) on a PIL seeking closure of restaurants on terraces in Khan Market and Connaught Place on grounds of safety.
The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar was hearing a Petition filed by one Manjit Singh, challenging Clause 3.1.5 of the National Building Code, which defines assembly buildings as buildings where at least 50 people convene. The Delhi Fire Rules, 2010 mandate only assembly buildings to obtain an NOC from the Fire Department.
This has been challenged as being devoid of any intelligible differentia, contending, "...the classification of 50 persons, as reproduced heretobefore, is founded on absolutely no intelligible differentia in the National Building Code while defining assembly buildings. The interpretation of the law, as it today stands, is to the effect that if a restaurant is 49 seater then it does not qualify as an assembly building and therefore does not warrant an NOC from the Fire Department, however if it is a 50 seater restaurant, it would be an assembly building and therefore would be an occupancy which is likely to cause a risk of fire. Therefore, the prescription of 50 persons, being unfounded on any intelligible differentia, is also hit by Article 14 of the Constitution of India and deserves to be reconsidered by the authorities."
The Petition also points out the fact that the eateries in these areas share a single narrow entry-exit stairway, making it extremely difficult for people to escape in case of any sudden calamity. It further submitted that the by-lanes of these establishments, especially in Khan Market, are too narrow for a Fire Brigade to reach there and rescue people.
It goes on to allege that the restaurants and bars at Khan Market and Connaught place serve liquor on terraces and balconies, in contravention of the permissions granted to them by the Excise Department.
The PIL therefore prays, "Issue a writ of or in the nature of mandamus and/or any other appropriate writ, order or direction, directing the Respondents to close terraces in Connaught Place running in contravention of Building Laws as well as Municipal Laws as well as in contravention of requirements of the various licenses as well as all of those which are structurally unsafe."
It further demands creation of a task force comprising officials from the NDMC, Delhi Fire Services, Delhi Excise Department, Delhi Police Licensing Branch, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, and independent individuals to conduct random inspections in these markets and submit reports to the Court.