A 25-year-old large white budget hotel in the national capital, Arpit Palace, in which 17 people died in a fire on Tuesday morning, was allegedly violating various building by-laws and fire safety norms and the agencies concerned remained ignorant.
The property, located at Delhi’s congested Karol Bagh area, falls under the jurisdiction of North Delhi Municipal Corporation. While it was granted permission to construct four storeys, it illegally constructed a permanent fifth floor and a temporary canopy on top of it.
An official at the North Corporation said the hotel was first granted a licence in October 2005 and was renewed every year. The last renewal was done on May 25, 2018, and was valid till March 31, 2019.
An official of Delhi Fire Service said the fifth floor was sealed with a brick wall after which a fire safety certificate was issued. He indicated that later the wall was demolished to run the rooftop restaurant.
The official said the fifth floor was shaded with an acrylic roof and was being used as a terrace restaurant by the hotel management. He said a kitchen and chairs were found by them during the fire fighting and cooling operations.
“The fifth floor was sealed with a brick wall when a fire safety certificate was issued to Hotel Arpit Palace on December 12, 2014,” said a Delhi Fire Service (DFS) officer.
Later, a reinspection was done by the DFS on December 4, 2017, and the owner was “deemed to have complied” with fire safety norms at the hotel premises and it was declared “fit” for “occupancy class residential” (guesthouse) with effect from December 24, 2017, for a period of three years, he said.
“Apparently, the wall used to seal the fifth floor was dismantled and it was being used for a terrace restaurant,” the official said.
The fire safety certificates were issued only for the basement, being used as a storage area, the ground floor, which was being used for a restaurant and reception, the first and second floors having 12 guest rooms each, and the third and fourth floors having 11 guest rooms each, he added.
Thus, the last fire safety certificates were issued in 2014 and 2017. This means that the establishment was not inspected for fire-safety violations for over two years.
Delhi’s Home Minister Satyendra Jain has said that buildings in the national capital can only be constructed up to four floors. He held the authorities responsible for the negligence in enforcing building laws. Jain said, “There is a clear case of negligence here.”
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari, also a stakeholder of the civic body, said they had learnt that the Chief Fire Officer of Delhi had issued a safety clearance certificate to this hotel, but despite that, such an incident is indicative of gross negligence.
“We will try to ensure that an impartial inquiry is held and the guilty persons are punished. Delhi BJP will keep an eye on the process of ensuring stern punishment to the guilty persons,” said Tiwari.