Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the city authorities to close down all coaching centres operating without a no-objection certificate from the fire services department.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma observed that “fire safety is a must” and all coaching centres are under an obligation to comply with their statutory requirements under the Delhi Master Plan, 2021, and other applicable regulations.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions concerning the operations of coaching centres in Mukherjee Nagar, a coaching hub for government job aspirants.
The petitions included proceedings initiated by the high court on its own after taking suo motu cognisance of a fire that broke out at a coaching centre in Mukherjee Nagar in June.
In a status report filed in the matter, the Delhi Police informed the court that of the 583 coaching institutes running in the national capital, only 67 have no-objection certificates (NOC) from the Delhi Fire Services.
“If a coaching centre is not conforming with the master plan provisions, it is to be shut down. There is no other alternative,” the bench, also comprising Justice Saurabh Banerjee, said.
“Respondents (MCD and Delhi government) are directed to close down coaching centres which do not have fire NOC,” the court ordered.
The court asked the police, the fire services department and other authorities to provide all logistical support to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to comply with the order within 30 days.
If there are structures other than coaching centres that are not complying, the MCD shall take action, it added.
Santosh Kumar Tripathi, the Delhi government’s standing counsel, said the status reports revealed that more than 95 per cent coaching centres did not have a fire safety certificate from the department despite it being a statutory requirement.
Delhi Fire Services, in its status report, said it conducted a survey of 461 coaching centres and found that the requisite fire preventive and safety measures, as per the Delhi Fire Service Act and its rules, had not been adopted.
While the court asked the Delhi government lawyer to “close” such institutes, he responded that the fire services department does not have the power to do so and added that the action has to be taken by the MCD.
The MCD’s counsel said action has been taken and even sealing orders issued to those in violation of the regulations.
“Those who are not having fire NOC or (operating) as per MPD (Master Plan for Delhi) will have to be closed down,” the court said.
“Statutory provisions under MPD certainly permit coaching centres subject to conditions and fire safety is a must,” it noted.
The Delhi government lawyer submitted that some time may be given to coaching centres to obtain fire certificates as their closure can hamper the academic interests of the students.
The court directed that the matter be listed for hearing on October 10.
Advocate Arun Panwar also appeared for the Delhi government.
On June 16, the high court took cognisance of a fire at a coaching institute in northwest Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar the previous day.
Taking note of a news report that showed students of the institute smashing windows and climbing down ropes in a desperate attempt to escape, the high court had asked the local authorities to file a status report.
A call about the fire was received at 12.27 pm and 11 water tenders were pressed into service. A few students suffered minor injuries while climbing down the building using ropes, according to officials.
A preliminary inquiry suggested that the fire started from an electricity meter board in the five-storey building, the officials said.
According to the police, around 250 students were attending classes at the building — Bhandari House — at the time.
The panic-stricken students were seen climbing down from the top floor with the help of ropes as smoke billowed out of the windows.
The students also used ropes on the other side of the building to come out of the premises. Some of them were seen throwing down their bags and helping one another.
A large crowd gathered at the spot, with many of them recording the incident on their mobile phones.