Gujarat HC takes suo motu cognizance of Rajkot game zone fire, calls it man-made disaster


PTI, May 26, 2024, 12:57 PM IST

A special bench of the Gujarat High Court on Sunday took suo motu cognizance of the fire incident at a game zone in Rajkot which left 27 persons dead and said it was prima facie a “man-made disaster”.

Such gaming zones and recreational facilities have come up without the necessary approvals from competent authorities, the bench of Justices Biren Vaishnav and Devan Desai observed.

The bench directed advocates of the Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot municipal corporations to appear before it on Monday with instructions as to under what provisions of law the authorities led these units to be set up or continue to operate under their jurisdiction.

Four children under the age of 12 were among the 27 persons killed and three others injured in the massive fire that swept through the game zone in Rajkot teeming with people enjoying a summer vacation outing on Saturday evening, as per the officials.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel visited the incident site at Nana-Mava road on Sunday morning and a hospital where the injured persons were admitted.

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

The HC also wanted to know from the state government and the municipal corporations ”whether such licenses, including the licenses to its use and compliance of fire safety regulations” were given to these respective (entertainment) zones that are in territorial jurisdiction of these corporations. These entertainment zones, as newspapers suggest, have come up without the necessary approvals from the competent authorities, the court noted.

Quoting newspaper reports, the high court said temporary structures were created at the TRP game zone in Rajkot in order to overcome the hurdles caused in taking necessary permissions, no-objection certificates, including the fire NOC and construction permission.

Not just Rajkot, such game zones have come up in Ahmedabad city as well and they ”pose a significant threat to public safety, specially the innocent children,” it said. ”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,” the court said.

”Prima facie, a man-made disaster has occurred where innocent lives of children have been lost” and families have grieved their loss, it said.

A stock of highly inflammable materials such as petrol, fibres and fibre glass sheets were stored at the Rajkot game zone where the fire occurred, the court noted.

The court listed the suo motu petition for further hearing on Monday, with a direction to the panel advocates for the respective corporations to appear before it with instructions as to ”under what provisions of law these corporations led these gaming zones/recreational facilities to be set up or continue and be put to use.” The bench also allowed a civil application in a PIL on fire safety being heard by the court that was moved by the party-in-person, Amit Panchal, for urgent hearing. Panchal in his note claimed the devastating fire shows there has been non-compliance of provisions of the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949 , Gujarat Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2013, the rules and regulations framed under it, as well as directions issued by the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court.

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