Delhi HC directs MCD and DFS to constitute a Joint Task Force to inspect coaching centres in Mukherjee Nagar in respect of fire and public safety norms

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Yashwant Varma and Ravinder Dudeja, JJ., directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (‘MCD’) and the Delhi Fire Services (‘DFS’) to constitute a Joint Task Force (‘JTF’) to examine and inspect all coaching and teaching centres/institutes situated in Mukherjee Nagar and draw up a comprehensive report indicating the infractions and other non-conforming aspects that might come to the fore.

On 25-07-2023, this Court considered a batch of writ petitions which pertained to the proliferation of coaching institutes and commercial activities in Mukherjee Nagar, the abject failure of such establishments to comply with fire and public safety norms. The Court after taking note of the various provisions made in the Master Plan for Delhi, 2021 (‘MPD, 2021’), noticed the regulatory measures as incorporated therein and pertaining to permissible activities in residential areas as well as the various prescriptions permitting mixed use of buildings which might have originally been purely residential in character.

The Court, after relying on Chapter 15.0 of the MPD, 2021 titled as “Mixed Use Regulations”, observed that the coaching centers falling under Clause 15.7.3(vii) of MPD 2021 must hold a valid Fire No-Objection Certificate. Further, the Court observed that no coaching center could run contrary to the MPD, 2021 and that in case it was found that it was not conforming to the norms prescribed therein, it would have to be “shut down”. The Court had directed the respondents herein to close all coaching centers running contrary to the provisions made in the MPD, 2021.

The DFS vide its status report dated 21-07-2023 asserted that consequent to a survey of 461 coaching centers till now, it was found that those buildings did not have requisite fire safety measures. According to the Delhi Police, out of 583 coaching institutes running in Delhi, only 67 had fire safety certificates while 516 institutes did not have a fire safety certificate.

The Court in respect of Clause 15.7.3(vii) of the MPD, 2021 opined that the said clause could not be said to be restricting fire safety clearances being required only in case a coaching or tuition center was proposed to be operated from a basement. In fact, a prima facie examination of that clause would appear to indicate it that it was placed ex abundati cautela and could not be read as intending to extend the requirement of fire safety clearance only where a coaching center was proposed to be established in a basement of a building. The Court further opined that the same would not detract from coaching and tuition centers being required to comply with fire safety norms that might be otherwise specified either under the MPD, 2021 or the Delhi Fire Service Rules, 2010 (‘2010 Rules’).

The Court observed that even the Unified Building Bye Laws for Delhi, 2016 (‘UBBL’) incorporated special measures for buildings covered under Rule 27 of the 2010 Rules and UBBL had the intent to ensure that buildings put to mixed use complied with safety norms where so mandated by virtue of cognate statutes. The Court opined that the MPD 2021, UBBL and the Delhi Fire Service Act, 2007 (‘2007 Act’) read along with the rules framed thereunder constituted a cohesive and comprehensive scheme seeking to regulate development, construction activity and defining permissible user in different areas of the capital city.

The Court opined that it was concerned with issues of public safety and those of school going children and the imperative of ensuring their safety could not be overemphasized. The Court opined that “since both the UBBL and the definition of “occupancy” in the 2007 Act takes into consideration subsidiary occupancies coupled with the admitted position of these centers having been established in residential areas and pursuant to the MPD, 2021 accepting mixed use of residential buildings, it could not be held that restrictions as placed by the MPD, 2021, the UBBL, the 2007 Act, and the 2010 Rules would apply only in case the buildings were being exclusively used for the purposes of running an educational or coaching center.

The Court thus found no justification to modify its order dated 25-07-2023. However, in order to effectively regulate the exercise of inspection of all coaching centers and to provide adequate opportunity to those centers to take remedial measures, the Court framed the following directions:

  1. The MCD and the DFS were directed to constitute a Joint Task Force (‘JTF’) which might examine and inspect all coaching and teaching centres/institutes situated in Mukherjee Nagar and draw up a comprehensive report indicating the infractions and other non-conforming aspects that might come to the fore.

  2. The JTF to also place all errant coaching institutes/centres on notice and apprise them of the infractions noticed as well as the remedial measures liable to be adopted. Those institutes/centres might be given reasonable time to ensure compliance.

  3. The JTF was left open to recommend interim and emergent measures that any of the inspected premises might be found liable to adopt and enforce; additionally liberty was given to the JTF to pass peremptory orders including those of closure in respect of such premises that might be found to be openly hazardous and unfit to function bearing in mind public safety norms and the provisions contained in the MPD, 2021, UBBL and the 2007 Act read along with the rules.

  4. All institutes and centres operating out of Mukherjee Nagar should ensure that the process of instruction and training to enrolled students was not disrupted and in case of temporary closure, they should ensure that instruction through the online mode was continued, and the interests of the enrolled students accorded paramount consideration.

The matter would next be listed on 15-01-2024 for review and further directions.

[Sanjay Singhal v. State (NCT of Delhi), W.P.(C) 12182 of 2016, Order dated 14-12-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

For the Petitioner: Sameer Mendiratta, Parmod Kumar Singhal, Rahul Singhal, A.K. Dubey, Pawan Kumar, J.S. Bedi, Amar Preet Singh, Manish Kaushik, Mishal Johari, Ajit Singh Joher, Anshita Agarwal, Snigdha Sharma, Anubhav Gupta, Meet Shokeen, Chirag Sharma, Advocates

For the Respondents: Manish Mohan, CGSC; Satyakam, Rishikesh Kumar, ASC; Puja Kalra, Standing Counsel; Beenashaw N. Soni, SC; Santosh Kumar Tripathi, SC (Civil); Sudhir Nandrajog, Sudhanshu Batra, Senior Advocates; Sweety Singh, Ashmita Singh, Harshit Goel, Sujoy Jain, K.V. Vipu Prasad, Arun Panwar, Pradyumn Rao, Utkarsh Singh, Kartik Sharma, Prashansa Sharma, Rishabh Srivastava, Manish Kumar, Moksh Arora, Santosh, Pritam Bishwas, Nalin Tripathi, Prakkar Srivastava, Tania Sharma, Pradyut Kashyap, Sheenu Priya, Atik Gill, Sudhir Kumar Shukla, Sudhir, Sumit Choudhary, Ann Joseph, Rakesh Kumar, Rajmani Mishra, Rahul Maurya, Archana Kumari, Sudhir Kathpalia, Revati Gulati, Advocates; Gautam Narayan, Amicus Curiae

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