Bombay High Court says fire safety audits were not effective, had shortcomings

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a judicial inquiry into last year’s Kamala Mills fire incident, the Bombay High Court has said the fire safety audits of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) were not effective, and that there were shortcomings in it. A bench of justices Shantanu Kemkar and M S Karnik was hearing the PIL petition, seeking a judicial inquiry into the fire that had claimed 14 lives. On February 16, an order was passed by the high court to set up an independent three member committee, to probe the “genesis” of the incident.

In view of the order, Senior Special Lawyer Vineet Naik, in a sealed envelope, submitted several names of retired Bombay High Court judges, architects from the high court panel and retired secretaries from the UDD before the court. The division bench of Justice Shantanu Khemkar and Justice Makarand Karnik said, “The names will be considered and the Committee will be constituted accordingly on the next date of hearing.”

The court also said that apart from the probe on the reason of fire, the state should see that remedial measure are also suggested which will help prevent such incidents in future. Further, the court also said that there should be an exercise of conducting audit an on all the restaurants across the city. Counsel for MCGM, Anil Sakhre then told the court that such an exercise has been conducted by the civic body. The court responded, “You’re doing that but there are shortcomings and that is why incidents like these are happening…we have seen the results of your audit.”

The court asked the state to consult MCGM and submit details on proper infrastructure proposal for the committee in terms of remunerations, place where the office will be set up for the committee and time that will be taken by the committee to complete the report by March 19. Terming the fire at Kamala Mills “wilful, negligent and neglectful attitude” by the authorities and restaurant owners, former Police Commissioner Julio Ribeiro had filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Bombay High Court seeking a judicial inquiry into the Kamala Mills fire.