The Bombay High Court, while ordering to remove seven mechanised cantilevered car parking (stack parking) in a suburban residential society in Mumbai’s Borivali, observed that the relaxation in development rules cannot be permitted when it adversely affects public safety and fire norms and if granted, such permission be immediately revoked.
A division bench of Justice Gautam S Patel and Justice Kamal R Khata passed an order on January 18, which was made available on Monday.
It observed that “the stack parking has completely undermined the safety, fire safety, and public safety not only of members of the Society but children, older people, and perhaps even passers by”.
The bench also expressed shock over a reply by Chief Fire Officer (CFO) of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and said it was ‘utterly useless’ for the civic body to show a photograph of some undersized ambulance passing under the stack parking.
The bench noted that a regular ambulance will not fit and the CFO himself admitted that no fire tender can go past the stack parking.
“When faced with the question from the Bench what then is to be done if there is a fire in the building, the answer we received was indeed shocking. It was solemnly suggested that since the building is less than 13 floors no fire engine access is necessary,” the HC noted.
The HC highlighted that “there are many buildings in Mumbai especially in smaller and more crowded areas that are no more than ground and four floors.”
“We dare say that this statement of the fire officer, if communicated to anybody in government, especially those who are about to seek votes in the next elections, would result in very considerable perturbation. We can hardly countenance a government officer going into a congested area in Girgaum, Dongri, or Gamdevi and saying that no fire engine will ever come to the rescue and still hope to escape from those areas unscathed.”
The bench noted that “there was no principle in statute let alone in equity by those who live in expensive high rises have greater safety priority than those who do not.” The sooner the BMC’s CFO understands it the better, it noted
The bench passed an order in a plea by an ophthalmologist Dr Rahul Jain, who has his clinic on the ground floor of the building.
Jain challenged the decision of seven mechanised cantilever (stack) parking in his housing society in Borivali (West) claiming that it was blocking the entrance to his premises and also caused concern to the life and safety of occupants.
Jain, through advocate Abhinav Chandrachud, submitted that as per amended plans, the developer was to put up two additional floors in the building; instead he obtained approvals from BMC and the fire department to construct seven stack parking.
The bench noted that as per the latest Development Control and Promotion Regulations (DCPR), there is a provision for BMC Commissioner to grant special permissions for modifications in specific cases where ‘demonstrable hardship’ is caused. However, the same “should not affect the health, safety, fire safety, structural safety and public safety of the inhabitants of the building and the neighbourhood”; failing which, such permission is liable to be immediately revoked, the HC noted.
The court termed the construction of stack parking in present case ‘illegal’ and ordered its immediately removal.