Civic bodies turn blind eye to office flouting fire norms
MCG had in October 2014 told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that hundreds of people are likely to perish in case of a fire in the buildinggurgaon Updated: Mar 19, 2018 12:50 IST
With civic authorities turning a blind eye, the local subsidiary of a US multinational has been running its operations from a building in central Gurgaon for the last seven years without a fire safety clearance, according to documents reviewed by Hindustan Times.
A recent spate of fire incidents in the National Capital Region does not seem to have had any effect on the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and fire department officials, both of whom have in the past inspected offices of Hughes Communication India Limited (HCIL), the largest satellite service operator in the country, running from 1, Electronic City, Sector-18, Gurgaon, and discovered serious non-compoundable violations that cannot be excused.
HCIL is a majority-owned subsidiary of US-based Hughes Network Systems LLC.
“We had withdrawn the fire no objection certificate in the year 2013,” said Isham Singh Kashyap, district fire officer, Gurgaon. “Though the building has fire safety equipment, there is a violation as it does not have the fire safety certificate and if any mishap takes place who will take the responsibility? We will take action as per the court orders.”
The fire safety issue is subsidiary to a dispute over the lease that is currently before the courts.
V Umashankar, the chief executive officer of Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) and former commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG), said, “We will perform our legal obligations without getting involved in a private property dispute.”
MCG had in October 2014 told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that hundreds of people are likely to perish in case of a fire in the building, which it said poses a grave danger to all the surrounding buildings like Maruti Suzuki India Ltd headquarters.
Responding through a text message on January 27, Partho Banerjee, president and managing director of HCIL, said, “What you are saying is not true. The case is in high court subjudice with long background. On travel to USA, back next week. Right person to talk to is Pranav.”
Pranav Roach is president of Hughes Network, a sister company of HCIL. Roach did not respond to phone calls, text message and email. Banerjee also did not respond to phone calls, SMS and email a week later.
The story dates back to 2000 when a 1200 square yard plot owned by software company Imaging Solutions Private Limited was leased to M/s HCIL for 11 years; the lease ended on May 2011. The lessor is now worried that he may be liable if there is a fire (by law, it is).
Imran Baig, director of the company , claims that despite the municipal commissioner and fire department finding violations and recommending action, nothing has happened. “For ten years, I have been running from pillar to post to stop my property from being resumed by the authorities and also to safeguard myself from prosecution in the event of a fire related calamity,” he said.
Since 2009, the fire department working under MCG, has been trying to seal the building, citing grave fire safety violations.
“In its order of March 2013, Gurgaon’s fire officer notes that the building is running without a valid lease and without an occupation certificate,” Baig said.
In 2009, Baig filed a complaint with HUDA against his tenants. An inspection was carried out by a HUDA committee on July 26, 2009. The committee found gross violations, cancelled the occupancy certificate and issued a show-cause notice on resumption, or government acquisition, of the property. The chief administrator, the administrator and the estate officer have made statements in court that their inspections had shown serious non-compoundable violations. As late as September 2017, the estate officer had submitted in high court details of the violations by the tenant which endangered “the life of people at large.”
“Four inspections carried out by MCG and fire department in 2009, 2013 and 2014 has found serious fire safety hazards. In May 2016, the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court instructed the estate officer to cancel the occupation certificate. No action was taken,” Baig said.
Former HUDA administrator Yashpal Yadav, who has taken charge of MCG commissioner admitted that as per the records the occupation certificate stands cancelled. “I will get an inspection done on the building as it was allotted by HUDA in 1997 and as per the Act, HUDA can demolish illegally constructed floors and if the owner/tenant resists, we can resume the property as it was allotted by us.” In November 2017, the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that there were serious apprehensions over the safety.