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Consider conducting surprise fire-safety compliance checks on restaurants: HC to BMC

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MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Thursday directed the civic administration of Mumbai to consider carrying out surprise checks for fire-safety compliance on restaurants and effectively implementing all rules related to grant of eatery or pub licenses, to ensure there is no repeat of last December’s deadly Kamala Mills blaze. There should also be a 24-hour helpline available to register complaints and give suggestions, observed the court.

Special civic counsel Anil Sakhare informed the HC that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was in the process of framing new draft rules and by-laws to deal with the issue.

“We expect the BMC to strictly implement statutory provisions,’’ said a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M S Karnik in its order on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former top cop Julio Rebeiro. The PIL, argued by counsel Sujay Kantawala, had sought judicial intervention to ensure corrective steps are taken by the civic authorities to prevent such fatal fires in the future, due to lack of supervision or proper compliance of rules. On Thursday, he said that due to the PIL and court intervention almost 25,000 square feet of illegal construction was demolished in the Kamala Mills area alone.

The discussion before the HC was over a report submitted by the court-appointed independent panel headed by retired Kerala high court CJ, Justice A V Savant which made several pertinent suggestions. There should be a dedicated cell to monitor grant of licences, maintain record of visits, online transaction of inviting applications for permission to eateries, observed the HC. It said that all details of each eatery should be made visible to the public and the BMC ought to create such a platform.

It was suggested by the HC that citizens should be able to participate in the process. It also said that the interface between licensees and assistant commissioner of the 24 wards must be regular and also maintenance of a register of architects and interior designers by the BMC.

The HC was informed that departmental inquiry of suspended delinquent civic officers would conclude in four weeks. Some accused are still in jail.

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