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HC moots independent regulator to monitor hotels, restaurants

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MUMBAI: Rooting for an independent regulator to keep a check on hotels and restaurants, Bombay high court on Monday said the Kamala Mills fire was an opportunity for the authorities to improve and ensure there was no repeat.
“Lives of people are involved. There has to be constant monitoring,” said a bench of justices Ravindra Borde and Rajesh Ketkar while hearing a PIL.

Filed by former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro, the PIL urged for a judicial inquiry into the December 29, 2017 fire which claimed 14 lives at 1Above restobar and Mojo’s Bistro.

The judges questioned how the BMC gave permission for an eatery on a rooftop. “Common areas must remain common for the enjoyment of occupants. How did you allow permission for an eatery on a rooftop?” asked justice Borde. The judges said Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act, Maharashtra Apartment Ownership Act and Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act are clear that areas of common amenities do not belong to the owner.

Senior advocate Anil Sakhare, representing BMC, said there was a structure on the third floor “and there was a terrace in front of that.” “Permission was granted to use the inside (the structure) and no permission was given for the terrace,” he said. He informed that a total 12 officers were being chargesheeted.

Government pleader Poornima Kantharia was categorical the excise department would not grant permission if there were residents, schools and hospitals in the vicinity.

The judges asked if action was being taken by the state and BMC against violators. “Even where permissions are granted surreptitiously, cancel them,’’ said justice Borde.

The judges stressed on the need for an independent permanent regulatory mechanism comprising all agencies. They also asked to see the BMC’s rooftop policy along with licences on the basis of which permissions are given at the next hearing.

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