The Gujarat High Court on Friday came down heavily on the state government over the issue of fire NOC and Building Use permission, stating that the government had not taken any action against officers involved in allowing illegal construction and then permitting such buildings to function without fire NOCs.
The High Court bench comprising Justices Bela Trivedi and Bhargav D Karia gave the Gujarat government and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation four weeks’ time to come up with a “concrete plan” to address the issue of non-compliance of rules regarding fire no objection certificates and Building Use permission.
“Enough is enough. It is time for action. You need to come up with a concrete action plan with a time schedule,” the bench said, while hearing a set of petitions regarding fire safety scenario in the cities.
While Advocate General Kamal Trivedi urged the bench to take up only the fire NOC issue at the moment and not to touch the “larger” matter of Building Use permission, the bench insisted on addressing both issues simultaneously, as the judges felt they are interconnected and cannot be separated.
“Why no action was taken against concerned officers, with whose connivance or blessings these illegal constructions went on and such buildings continue to be occupied without a fire NOC?” the bench asked.
When the Advocate General said notices were issued to those who do not have fire NOCs for their buildings, the bench noted that the government “wakes up and starts taking action” only after the court intervenes.
“For years together, no action was taken against wrongdoers or officers who did not take action against wrongdoers. Nothing happens. Every time you come up with such excuses and nothing is happening,” Justice Bela Trivedi said.
At one point, when the court insisted that the government should also initiate action against those who did not acquire Building Use permission, the Advocate General urged the court to address that issue afterwards, as he claimed that the only option left with the government in such scenario will be to demolish illegal buildings and that will create “commotion”.
When the Advocate General said the Building Use permission issue is a “complicated one” and buildings also come up “overnight”, Justice Karia refused to buy the argument saying “the claim is not digestible”.
While addressing the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation lawyer Mihir Joshi, who was also of the opinion that only fire NOC issue should be addressed for now, Justice Karia said, “Nothing will happen for another 20 years if we go by that argument. Something drastic has to be done now.” The bench was of the opinion that giving fire NOC to a building, which does not have a Building Use permission, is akin to allowing illegal use of a building by separating two issues.
Mr Joshi said if a fire NOC is withheld for the want of Building Use permission, it will lead to bigger complications.
The bench did not give in to the argument saying “in the garb of safety, you will give fire NOC to those who do not have BU permission. So, we can’t bifurcate the two issues. It has to be taken up together”.
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