Courts Update Supreme Court stays Gujarat govt notification relaxing building use...

Supreme Court stays Gujarat govt notification relaxing building use permission and fire safety norms at hospitals

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New Delhi Aug 27(ILNS): The Supreme Court stayed the Gujarat government notification for relaxing building use permission and fire safety norms at hospitals under the Town Planning Act.

The apex court today lashed out at the Gujarat government’s notification and expressed utmost displeasure. “The Gujarat government notification goes against public health and safety. In the effort to save people in pandemic we are killing people by fire.” (IN RE THE PROPER TREATMENT OF COVID 19 PATIENTS AND DIGNIFIED HANDLING OF DEAD BODIES IN THE HOSPITALS ETC.)

The Supreme Court bench comprised by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah while hearing the suo motu case concerning Covid-19 treatment and dignified handling of the dead bodies of deceased, on an earlier date took concern regarding fire that broke out in the ICU of a designated Covid-19 hospital in Rajkot, Gujarat wherein 5-6 patients died while undergoing treatment. Thereafter, similar incidents were noted, when the apex court heard the matter, the question concerning the clarification of notification dated July 8, 2021, was sought from the state government. 

The said notification under the Urban Development and Urban Housing Department purportedly in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 122 of Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976, stated that no action would be taken against buildings without “Building Use Permission” till March next year. The question that attracted the attention of the apex court was whether this notification would interfere with the permission with respect to fire safety norms. 

Thereafter, an affidavit was submitted by the Gujarat Government stating “This notification of July 8, 2021, does not, in any manner whatsoever, restrict the powers vested under Fire Prevention Act, 2013, nor does it grant any extended timeline, to any hospital for obtaining a Fire NOC.” 

However, the bench on the last hearing expressed displeasure over the affidavit and the Bench observed that nobody can get the Building Use permission without getting the fire safety certificate for either constructing or maintaining a building. 

Today when this matter was taken up, the bench weeded out that Building Use Permissions were equally important and said it was shocking that many hospitals had yet to obtain them. The bench further observed that though the notification states that the defaulting entities shall immediately take corrective measures in accordance with the regulations, within a period of 3 months, however, the same notification states that no coercive actions shall be taken by the local body.

The bench expressed extreme displeasure to the said notification, it was observed that the power vested in state government is to facilitate efficient administration as a consequence of the notification the state has directed buildings that don’t have Building Use (BU) permission or are in breach of BU rules or violated height restriction, etc. shall be exempted from General Development Control Regulation (GDCR)… The notification under the town planning act has no nexus with services being made available in the pandemic. Health safety of citizens is not contemplated and less so in power conferred under Section 122 of Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976. Notification date July 8, 2021, shall be held in abeyance.”

The aforesaid matter traversed when Eight Covid patients were killed in a fire in August last year at Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad. Thereafter, in November, six people died at Rajkot’s Uday Shivanand Hospital, and later in May another 18 people died in one other hospital in Bharuch, Gujarat and the Gujarat government came with the said notification (order) even after Supreme Court ordered fire safety audits for hospitals across India while Gujarat government moved such notification./ILNS/KR/SNG

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