Rajkot fire news: Gujarat HC takes suo motu cognizance of gaming zone accident

Rajkot gaming zone fire: Gujarat high court takes suo motu cognizance. The bench, consisting of Justices Biren Vaishnav and Devan Desai, noted that many gaming zones and recreational facilities have been established without proper approvals from competent authorities.

Livemint, Written By Jocelyn Fernandes
First Published26 May 2024
Rajkot fire: Firefighters douse a fire that broke out in a gaming zone, in Rajkot, on Saturday, May 25, 2024.
Rajkot fire: Firefighters douse a fire that broke out in a gaming zone, in Rajkot, on Saturday, May 25, 2024.(PTI)

Rajkot Fire: A special bench of the Gujarat High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of the tragic fire at a game zone in Rajkot, which resulted in the deaths of 27 people, PTI reported on May 26.

Among the 27 victims were four children under the age of 12. Three others were injured in the fire that engulfed the Rajkot game zone on Saturday evening. The area was crowded with people enjoying a summer outing. The court labelled the incident as a prima facie "man-made disaster."

The bench, consisting of Justices Biren Vaishnav and Devan Desai, noted that many gaming zones and recreational facilities have been established without proper approvals from competent authorities.

Inquiry Into Legal Provisions

The court has directed advocates from the Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, and Rajkot municipal corporations to appear before it. They are to provide information on the legal provisions under which these units were allowed to be set up and continue operating within their jurisdictions.

The court expressed its shock at newspaper reports suggesting that the Rajkot gaming zone exploited loopholes in the Gujarat Comprehensive General Development Control Regulations (GDCR). It indicated these entertainment zones were established without necessary approvals.

"We are shocked to read newspaper reports which indicate that the gaming zone at Rajkot appears to have taken advantage of the loopholes in GDCR. These entertainment zones, as newspapers suggest, have come up without the necessary approvals from the competent authorities," the court observed.

The High Court has questioned the state government and municipal corporations about the licenses and fire safety regulations for these entertainment zones within their jurisdictions. Citing newspaper reports, the court noted that temporary structures at the TRP game zone in Rajkot were erected to bypass necessary permissions, including fire NOC and construction approval.

The court also expressed concern over the proliferation of such game zones in Ahmedabad, highlighting the significant threat they pose to public safety, particularly to children.

"Apart from having constructed such gaming zones/ recreational activities, they have been put to use apparently, according to our information through the newspaper reports, without permission. Prima facie, a man-made disaster has occurred where innocent lives of children have been lost, and families have grieved their loss," it said.

The court noted that highly inflammable materials, such as petrol, fibres, and fibreglass sheets, were stored at the Rajkot game zone where the fire broke out.

Further Hearings

The court has scheduled a further hearing for the suo moto petition on Monday, May 27, requiring panel advocates for the respective corporations to explain the legal provisions allowing these gaming zones and recreational facilities to operate.

The bench also permitted a civil application in a PIL on fire safety, filed by party-in-person Amit Panchal, for an urgent hearing. Panchal's note claims the fire incident shows a failure to comply with the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, the Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2013, and directives from the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court.

(With inputs from PTI)

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