The Delhi High Court today said imperiling human life due to extreme congestion and pollution, generation of hazardous affluence and extreme pressure on fire services and police cannot be tolerated. The court made the remarks after taking a suo motu cognisance of news reports of a major fire in a rubber godown in South Delhi’s Malviya Nagar on Tuesday. The fire started in a truck loaded with inflammable rubber sheets and spread to the godown in the congested locality. The massive fire was controlled after 20 hours. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and C Hari Shankar said the incident raises serious concerns on misuse of property. It said the time has come to fix criminal liability and impose monetary penalty for loses caused to public, and the property owners and occupiers who misuse the property have to be held liable.
Taking note of the news reports that said up to 90 fire tenders were pressed into action along with a helicopter of the Indian Air Force and 8,000 litres of water was used to douse of the fire, the bench lamented, “Delhi’s tax payers will now have to maintain aerial fire fighting as you (civic bodies) do not perform your job.” The court said it cannot be ignored that the fire raged for 20 hours, requiring evacuation of 40 properties. “Apart from imperiling quality of human life on account of extreme congestion and pollution and generation of hazardous affluence, liquid and gaseous, the extreme pressure put on the already stretched public services and resources including fire services, police and others, cannot be tolerated,” the bench said. The court issued showcause notices to South Delhi Municipal Corporation, Delhi Fire Services, Delhi Police and owner of the property where the fire incident happened.
It directed the Delhi Police commissioner to call for an inquiry and place complete information about the property owner, occupiers, dates of its construction and when commercial use commenced and whether it has a sanctioned plan. The bench also directed the chief fire officer, Delhi Police and Indian Air Force to place before it the details of expenditure in facilitating the operation of extinguishing the fire and listed the matter for a next hearing on July 3.
The fire was brought under control yesterday with the help of the IAF, which conducted a ‘Bambi Bucket’ operation. It was the first time that a Bambi Bucket operation was carried out by the Air Force in an urban setting, the IAF said in a statement. The police has arrested Sanjay Saini, owner of the godown. It was found that he was storing inflammable materials without proper permission from the MCD and there were no fire safety measures in place at the godown, police said.