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HC slams Delhi government for no action against schools lacking fire safety measures

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Thursday pulled up the AAP government for not taking any action against schools, run by it and private ones, which have inadequate fire safety measures and asked whether it was “waiting for a tragedy to hit” before acting.

“What action have you taken against the schools which do not have fire safety measures? Are you waiting for some tragedy to hit (a school) here,” a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Delhi government.

The court posed the query while hearing a PIL by advocate Kush Kalra who has claimed that many schools, both private and government-run/aided, have not complied with fire safety and building stability norms.

The bench said the matter has been going on for some time and the court was doing the government’s work through the PIL.

The court said the Delhi government has the power to ensure that the schools in the national capital are structurally safe and have adequate fire safety measures.

The Delhi government additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan told the court that notices are sent to errant schools for non-compliance and if they do not take corrective measures, the institute is either de-recognised or its management is taken over.

The court then asked how many schools have been de-recognised or taken over by the government.

When Narayan said he will need to take instructions regarding the query posed by the court, the bench said the Delhi government taking over the management of errant private schools would not be a solution as its own institutions were lacking fire safety measures.

“You (Delhi government) are sailing in the same boat. What will you do after taking over the management as even your own schools do not have fire safety. In the end, it is the children who would suffer,” the court said.

It directed the Delhi government and the municipal corporations to issue notices to errant schools under their jurisdiction to ensure adequate fire safety measures and structural stability in their buildings.

It also directed them to give a list of schools which do not have fire safety measures and are structurally unstable along with a chart indicating the action taken against each such institution.

During the hearing, the bench also remarked that risk of fires was much more in the coaching institutions running in the national capital as these establishments consume huge electricity loads.

Kalra, in his plea, has claimed that the Supreme Court had in 2009 issued directions to all the schools in India to have a fire safety certificate and stability certificates, but these were not being complied with it.

He has alleged that the Delhi government’s education directorate, the fire services and public works departments are being negligent in performing their duties to take steps to ensure that the schools are complying with building stability and fire safety norms.

The Delhi-based lawyer has also claimed that authorities, including the municipal corporations, were clueless as to whether any school under their jurisdiction is actually complying with the norms.

The petition has sought directions to the local authorities to ensure compliance of the apex courts order as well as the National Building Code of India, claiming that the “safety of school-going students in Delhi is at risk”. 

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