The 88-year-old Parliament House hasn’t had mandatory safety clearance from the Delhi fire department for at least a decade because of encroachment and illegal construction, sources said on Monday after the sprawling complex witnessed two fire incidents in as many weeks.
The department has refused to give the safety certificate to the heritage structure because several prohibited structures such as temporary offices choking emergency exits and staircases still remained.
Successive governments allowed these structures to come up because of the space crunch for officials and political parties in the Parliament complex.
The encroachments that have apparently choked evacuation routes and corridors include a room which is an extension of the BJP office.
A part of the parliamentary affairs minister’s office is considered unauthorised and a section of the Lok Sabha secretariat near the main lobby of the lower House has eaten into a corridor and a staircase.
According to an internal note, two temporary cabins used by the Prime Minister’s Office failed to meet safety standards, though these have been there for years because of security reasons.
The Parliament Heritage Committee asked for demolition of all illegal structures in 2012. “But some parties and officials are yet to comply with the directions,” an official said.
Several ministers apparently overlooked notices to clear unauthorised construction — mostly with highly-inflammable materials — in their offices when the UPA was in power.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat, which is responsible for the upkeep of the property, could consider ordering a fire safety audit after flames engulfed a part of a central cooling system on the eastern side of the Parliament complex on Sunday. This was the second scare since a minor fire broke out at the same place on March 19.
“We have formed a committee to look into the incident. Their report is expected in a few days. After that, we can go for a fire-safety audit,” Lok Sabha secretary-general Anoop Mishra said on Monday.
“We have removed encroachments to a large extent but it has not been possible to get the fire safety certificate as the department had set high parameters which could not be met so far.”
During the previous Lok Sabha, the public works department had asked authorities to vacate the building for two years to carry out repairs.
Some corrective steps have been taken, such as shifting the kitchen, a major safety hazard, away from the main Parliament building to the one housing the library.
“We tried for the fire safety certificate but failed,” said former Lok Sabha secretary general TK Vishwanathan.