In a move which will set the clock back to 22 years upsetting a lot of efforts made by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), the central government has filed an affidavit before the Delhi High Court placing on record the correspondence requesting the administrative head of the Delhi Govt.- the Lieutenant General to withdraw a January 2015 notification by which it was mandated that a nodal agency be created to give effect to the directions passed by the Supreme Court in MCD v AVUT [2011 14 SCC 481]
The Supreme Court in the 2011 judgment had laid down directions towards preventive measures against fire at public places. It was found that there was a need for prompt disaster management and suggestions were given to the Government for consideration and implementation in the light of lessons learnt from Uphaar Cinema Tragedy. It was also held that alertness and preparedness at all times, even in ``non-disaster periods" are key to efficient disaster management.
The issue cropped up again before the Supreme Court in Sushil Ansal v State [2014 6 SCC 173] wherein regarding safety standards in Cinema theatres and multiplexes the Supreme Court's suggestions to Government for consideration and implementation in the 2011 judgment came up for consideration and it was categorically noted that there was lack of any progress till date. However, it was left open to the AVUT or any other public-spirited person to seek implementation of the said directions in appropriate proceedings.
It was only on 09.01.2015 the then LG of Delhi issued a notification stating that the licensing authority shall act on recommendations of a nodal agency whose composition was also prescribed. This notification was challenged before the Delhi High Court in 2015 and since then it has been pending. The Central Government, as it appears from the affidavit so filed, obtained legal opinion from the then Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar and Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain has now requested the LG to withdraw the same. It is to be noted that the affidavit is silent on whether the Union of India wishes to bring in legislation on the said issue or wishes to bring in another comprehensive notification or has requested for an unconditional withdrawal of the notification.
This attracts more importance in light of the recent unfortunate fire incident at a hotel in Delhi's residential area; Karol Bagh which claimed 17 lives including 15 of those who died due to suffocation. Furthermore, it assumes significance as it was after years of legal fight that the AVUT was finally able to obtain directions to this effect by the Supreme Court and it was further after years of deliberation that the notification was issued.