The Centre has favoured implementation of National Building Code (NBC), 2005 to prevent Bhuj-like disasters and ensure structural safety of constructions in the country.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Urban Development Ministry said NBC guidelines should be made mandatory in the wake of earthquakes in Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir that resulted into huge loss of life and property due to collapse of buildings.
The affidavit has been filed in response to a PIL filed by an NGO - Society for Safe Structure - seeking implementation of the Code.
The NGO's General Secretary Anil Aggarwal contended it was the constitutional obligation of the State to protect the life and property of its citizens and, therefore, it must take steps for safety of buildings.
He pointed out that most of the major cities and metropolis were under imminent threat of earthquake and according to government assessment, seven lakh people in Delhi alone would die and 28 lakh would suffer severe injuries in case of such a natural disaster. Besides, it would result into immense loss of property.
According to the affidavit, the Urban Development Ministry has held a discussion with the Banking and Insurance Division of the Ministry of Finance to explore the possibility of insisting on NBC compliance for building loans and insurance.
The Finance Ministry has been requested to explore the feasibility of bringing about a system that makes it mandatory for lending institutions to insist on the necessity of insuring that constructions are built with borrowed finance.
It has also been asked to examine how such insuring agencies can be made to insist on adherence to NBC specifications that in turn would ensure safe structures," the Urban Development Ministry submitted.
However, it said buildings being a State subject, it would be appropriate if the court issued suitable directions to all the urban local bodies to adopt and implement NBC.
"The process of the Centre inviting all the state governments, having discussions with them and persuading them would be a long-drawn process," it pointed out.
The Centre requested that "a certification with effect from a cut-off date may be specified by the honourable court so as to bring into force the provisions relating to structural safety certification. The architect or the structural engineer, as the case may be, must sign a plan at the time of initial submission and the structural engineer must be responsible for submitting a completion certificate," it said.
Urban Development Ministry's submissions assume significance in view of rapid urbanisation in the country without any uniform guidelines for structural safety.
Prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), NBC prescribes standards and specifications adoptable for varying construction conditions throughout India and acts as an authoritative reference manual for the guidance of every construction agency.
It lays down a set of minimum provisions designed to protect the public from the point of view of structural safety, fire hazards, health concerns. While basic requirements prescribed by the Code are to be met, the choice of material and method of design and construction is left to the ingenuity of the building professionals.
The code also covers administrative regulations, development control rules and general building requirements, fire protection requirements, stipulations regarding material and structural design, rules for design of electrical installations, lighting, air conditioning and lifts, regulations for ventilation, acoustics and pumping services such as water supply drainage, sanitation and gas supply.
It prescribes measures to ensure safety of workers and public during construction and rules for erection of signs and outdoor display structures too.