New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the AAP government, the police and the fire department to respond to a PIL seeking directions to them to ensure fire safety in all private coaching centres in commercial as well as residential areas of the national capital.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Brijesh Sethi issued notices to them seeking their stand on the petition by a lawyer who has alleged that such centres were not following fire safety rules.
Referring to the recent fire tragedy at a coaching centre in Surat, Gujarat that claimed 22 lives, including 18 girls, the petitioner -- Madhumita Kothari -- has said that authorities here have to perform their duties "with greater vigil and efficiency" to prevent recurrence of such accidents.
She said many private coaching centres in Delhi do not have fire safety devices or properly marked exit paths and there are no emergency exit plans in case of situations like fire, earthquake or building collapse.
In the Surat fire tragedy, according to the authorities, the majority of the students died due to suffocation or jumping off the third and fourth floors of the building as all the exits were blocked.
The petition has contended that the Delhi government should create laws to regulate the establishment and operation of private coaching centres mushrooming across the city.
Besides, it said, fire service needs to ensure that safety devices are properly installed and maintained thereby carrying out periodic audits and police should prosecute the violators.
The plea has alleged that none of the authorities has performed their duties to ensure safety and security of the children who spend hours in the private coaching centres of Delhi seeking educational support for competitive examinations.
The petitioner has sought to know as to "how such institutes were allowed to operate in overcrowded commercial complexes, crowded residential villages vertically on the higher floors above restaurants and high fire risk establishments across Delhi".
She has sought a direction to the Delhi government to ensure that the coaching centres comply with fire safety norms, install adequate upto date fire safety devices, has illuminated and spacious exit paths and emergency exit plans.
The petition has also sought a direction to the police and fire department to form a team for periodically inspecting the coaching centres to ensure they are complying with the safety norms.