Ensure strict fire safety norms in restaurants: SC
NEW DELHI: Holding that safety of people is the "supreme law" which could not be compromised at any cost, the Supreme Court has directed the authorities to ensure strict compliance of fire safety norms in hotels, restaurants and other public places to avoid recurrence of Uphaar incident and the recent tragedy in Mumbai pub which claimed lives of 11 people.
"It is the prime duty, rather statutory duty, of the police personnel/administration of every state to maintain and give precedence to the safety and the morality of the people. Indeed, both are important and lie at the heart of the doctrine that the welfare of an individual must yield to that of the community," a bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre observed while upholding Karnataka government's decision making it mandatory for restaurant owners to get prior permission for holding live music band, cabaret dance and discotheques in their premises.
As per the law, the owners would be granted permission subject to fulfilment of the various condition including that the material used in the building there should not pose any kind of fire hazard and there should be at least one emergency exit. It also says that the restaurants would be allowed to hold shows which are immoral and indecent.
The association of restaurants challenged the provision saying that government was putting unreasonable restrictions which hampered their business.
The bench, however, said that making it obligatory to obtain a licence to display cabaret, discotheque or live band was a reasonable restriction and turned down the plea of owners to declare the law unconstitutional.
It said that the conditions ensured the safety and the welfare of the general public who regularly visits such restaurants to take food and witness the live performances.
"We can take judicial notice of an incident occurred in recent past in a restaurant in Mumbai where life of several innocent people sitting in the restaurants were lost due to lapses in ensuring compliance of safety measures. Yet another incident of the similar nature occurred few 46 years before in Upahar theatre in Delhi where several innocent people lost their life due to non-observance of safety measures. When such incidents occur, they never obliterate from the memories of the citizen and leave a message to all the stakeholders that steps for strict compliance must be taken to avoid any such recurrence in future at any place. We hope that all the stakeholders will keep our observations in mind," it said.
The court said that life of general public would be at risk of any untoward incident if safety measures were not adhered to by the owners of the restaurants and "the public interest, the welfare and the safety of general public always override the right of an individual".
"Similarly, with a view to avert any untoward incident due to the breaking of fire may be for any reasons in the licensed premises, appropriate specific safety measures must be carried out under the guidance of a team of experts. These steps are in public interest and it should be given precedence by the Commissioner of Police not only at the time of granting of the license but also by doing a regular inspection of the licensed premises without any lapse on his part," the bench said.
The association also raised the issue on why such restrictions were not imposed while conducting shows on traditional dance like Bharat Natyam and folk art and music. The bench, however, said that cabaret, discotheque and live band attracted more crowd and it could have an element of indecency which needed to be controlled.
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