The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the installation of fire-extinguishing equipment and implementation of building safety measures in all government and private schools across India to check the recurrence of any mishap like the July 2004 school fire in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, that claimed the lives of 93 children.
The court ordered implementation of various safety measures against fire and addressing other security concerns of schools within six months. It also asked the Education Secretaries of each state and union territory to file an affidavit of compliance within one month after installation of fire extinguishing equipment.
The verdict came from a bench headed by Justice Daveer Bhandari on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Avinash Mehrotra, demanding enforcement of children’s fundamental right education in a safe and secure environment.
The PIL was filed in 2004 in the wake of the Kumbakonam tragedy, in which 93 children from classes LKG to standard five got trapped and burnt in a fire that started in the kitchen of the Lord Krishna Middle School during the cooking of the mid-day meal.
The court ordered all government and private schools to strictly comply with the safety measures prescribed by the National Building Code of India in 2005 and asked the authorities not to recognise the schools not complying with safety measures.
“Before granting recognition or affiliation, the concerned state governments and union territories are directed to ensure that the buildings are safe and secured from every angle and they are constructed according to the safety norms incorporated in the National Building Code of India,” it said.
The court ordered “necessary training to the staff and other school officials in using the fire extinguishing equipment” and said that “the school buildings be kept free from inflammable and toxic material. If storage is inevitable, they should be stored safely.”
It also ordered “periodic evaluation of structural aspect of the school” and asked “concerned engineers and officials to strictly follow the National Building Code and issue safety certificates only after proper inspection.”
The court made it clear that dereliction in duty on the part of concerned officials would attract immediate disciplinary action.