June 2, 2024

High Court directs Delhi govt to decide on position on fire safety norms, ET HealthWorld


NEW DELHI: The High Court on Saturday directed the Delhi government to decide two petitions seeking regular fire safety audits and formulation of fire safety standards in small hospitals and nursing homes following the deaths of seven newborns in a horrific fire at a private newborn care home. Hearing the case on a holiday, a bench of Interim Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet P.S. Arora said the two petitions raising the issue of fire safety should be treated as petitions by the government and the government would decide them by issuing detailed speaking orders within four weeks. The court also directed the Delhi government and the Delhi Fire Department to submit a report of action within eight weeks and listed the report for compliance on August 9.

Standing counsel for the Delhi government, Santosh Kumar Tripathi, argued that the government is not treating the petition as adversarial and is ready to incorporate the fair and equitable suggestions put forward by the petitioners in the fire service code.

The petition filed by Shweta, who describes herself as a social worker, sought directions to the authorities to conduct regular comprehensive fire safety audits, ensure proper fire fighting system and address the issue of inadequate electrical load capacity.

It also sought mandatory codes and requirements regarding fire safety for leading institutions, minor hospitals and care homes in Delhi.

Advocate Pradeep Sharma, representing the petitioners, argued that as per data from the Delhi government’s health department, of the 1,183 registered nursing homes in the national capital, the registration of 340 has expired.

“But these care homes still continue to operate without any consideration for the risk they are putting innocent lives at risk. An example of this is the fire that broke out at Baby Care Newborn Hospital, Vivek Vihar here on the night of May 25, which led to the deaths of seven infants,” he said.

The authorities should be directed to ensure registration and timely renewal of licences required for operating these establishments, the plea said.

Another petition filed by Yuganshu Mittal said a disturbing pattern had emerged in the aftermath of the neonatal centre fire, where such small and medium-sized hospitals seemed to be taking advantage of “ambiguities” in rules to avoid complying with fire precautions.

Advocate KC Mittal, appearing for the petitioners, cited news reports and said there are nearly 1,000 hospitals registered with the Delhi government but only 196 have fire NOC.

“It is really shocking that, as reported, only around 20 per cent of hospitals have fire NOC. Logically, this means that 80 per cent, or around 804 hospitals, do not have fire NOC and are therefore at risk of fire,” he said.

The petition sought direction to develop a different set of basic standards that could be implemented by smaller hospitals and care homes, such as installing sprinklers and automatic fire alarms.

It also sought directions to allow authorities to inspect smaller hospitals and nursing homes in Delhi to see whether they are complying with fire safety norms already established under the Delhi Fire Service Rules, 2010.

Six newborn babies were killed in a deadly fire that broke out at BabyCare Newborn Hospital in Vivek Vihar on May 25. Of the five injured children rescued from the hospital, one died during treatment on Friday.

Dr Naveen Khich, owner of Vivek Vihar Hospital, was arrested by Delhi Police after the premises was found to be violating fire safety norms. Officials said the hospital was allegedly treating patients beyond its capacity and its licence had expired on March 31.

Published on June 02, 2024 at 09:57 AM IST

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