The Delhi government has suspended the fire certificates of 30 hotels in Karol Bagh for lacking adequate safety mechanisms, effectively shutting them down for at least 15 days, in the wake of a major fire at Arpit Palace hotel in the locality in which 17 people were killed.
The action, initiated by state Home Minister Satyendar Jain, will further strengthen the Delhi Fire Rules, 2009, amended to make the violations more explicit and the regulations more stringent, according to the minister, who added that the drive would be carried out across the city.
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (North MCD), which approves building plans and issues health trade licenses to such hotels in the area, blamed the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) on Friday for issuing no-objection certificates (NOCs) to the Arpit Palace hotel even though it did not meet fire-safety norms. The DFS, on the other hand, blamed the corporation, which renews licenses annually, for not checking violations inside the hotel premises.
While the Delhi government is calling these buildings “hotels”, on paper they are termed “guest houses” because Karol Bagh, like the city’s Walled City area, enjoys a special status under the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act. No hotels can come up in the area, and only guest houses are allowed.
Jain said that DFS, after conducting inspections in 45 hotels in the area over the past two days, has suspended fire NOCs of 30 buildings for 15 days, during which the owners will have to rectify the lapses and submit a compliance report. The NOC will be cancelled if the mandated checks are not found in place once the grace period ends.
“On 13 February, 23 hotels were inspected by the fire department. Of these, 13 were found violating fire safety norms. Next day, 17 hotels out of 22 were found to have violated rules. We have written to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and the police to take steps to seal them. But, technically, these hotels are deemed shut as they cannot operate without a fire NOC,” the minister said.
The hotels that will be shut are small, budget hotels that cater to backpacking tourists.
North MCD commissioner Varsha Joshi said the civic agency is yet to receive a letter from DFS. “Yes, if we get a letter from DFS stating that fire NOCs have been cancelled, the MCD will have to cancel the kitchen license in all these buildings as per the rules,” she said.
Karol Bagh’s hotel and restaurant association criticised the move, calling it a “knee-jerk reaction”, and said they seek an appointment with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal or Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal to put their point across.
“Why have the authorities woken up only after this fire incident? First, the DFS suspended NOCs and then they sent the same info to the police. Today, from 7pm onwards, the licensing office’s teams have been asking owners to turn away even existing customers and not accept any new booking,” said Balan Mani, vice-president of the Delhi Hotel and Restaurant Association.