'Were you asleep for 4 years?' Court slams officials over Rajkot game zone fire

The Gujarat High Court sharply rebuked Rajkot Municipal Corporation officials and said it had lost confidence in the state machinery after it emerged that the gaming zone where 28 people died in a fire had been operating without requisite permits.
'Were you asleep for 4 years?' Court slams officials over Rajkot game zone fire
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The Gujarat High Court came down heavily on the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) on Monday after major security lapses came to the fore at the gaming zone where a massive fire claimed the lives of 28 people, including nine children.

A special bench comprising Justice Biren Vaishnav and Justice Devan Desai expressed its lack of faith in the state machinery, questioning how such a tragedy could occur despite previous court orders. The gaming zone operators had reportedly not taken the mandatory permissions and licences from the Rajkot Municipal Corporation.

"All this was going on for two-and-a-half years, so did you fall asleep? Or did you go blind," the court scolded the officials.

When the RMC informed the court that the gaming zone did not ask for permission, the bench pointed out it was their responsibility too. "Even after four years of our order, if no steps were taken in the matter of fire safety, then how is the RMC not responsible?" it said.

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'Were you asleep for 4 years?' Court slams officials over Rajkot game zone fire

The Rajkot civic body was also hauled over the coals by the court after photographs of officials at the gaming zone came to light. "What were these officers doing there? Did they go to play?" the bench demanded.

The Gujarat High Court took suo motu cognisance of the fire at the TRP game zone on Sunday, terming it a "man-made disaster" where innocent lives were lost due to the lack of adequate approvals from competent authorities.

The fire, which broke out on Saturday, may have been caused by welding work being carried out at the game zone. The facility lacked a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department and had only one entry-exit point, which contributed to the rapid spread of the fire. Thousands of litres of petrol and diesel were stored at the zone, further exacerbating the situation.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Bhupendra Patel, and Home Minister, Harsh Sanghavi, visited the site to assess the situation, and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed to probe the incident. The SIT has been directed to submit a report within 72 hours.

Three people, including the owner and manager of the gaming zone, have been arrested, and a case has been filed against six people under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The Gujarat DGP has instructed all gaming zones in the state to be inspected, and those operating without fire safety permission are to be closed.

The Gujarat government on Monday ordered the suspension of six officials in connection with the Rajkot game zone fire. The officials were held responsible for their "gross negligence in allowing the game zone to operate without necessary approvals".

Source: India Today

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