NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court  issued notice to the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) in a PIL seeking closure of restaurants on terraces in Khan Market and Connaught Place on grounds of safety.

The petitioner, one Manjit Singh, prayed before the Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar for closure of such restaurants and terraces in the two posh markets, alleging that they pose safety risks to the general public and imperil their right to life under Article 21.

It was stated that most of the establishments at Khan Market only have access from the narrow middle lane with only one entry-exit stairway. Further, these establishments have no separate and designated fire exit which could be used to exit the building in case of any calamity/disaster.

“Most of the establishments do not possess an NOC from the Delhi Fire Department on the ground that they are not assembly buildings under the National Building Code, 2005 and therefore do not attract Rule 27 of the Delhi Fire Rules, 2010.”

With regard to Connaught Place, it was stated that the NDMC had given permission to the restaurants to open their terraces for the limited purposes of cleaning and removal of items/articles therefrom. However, in the garb of this limited permission, the restaurants have once again started full-fledged commercial operations on these terraces.

It is also stated that the restaurants and bars at Khan Market as well as Connaught Place are serving liquor in the balconies and other open areas, which is in gross violation of the permissions granted by the Excise department.

The petition assails Clause 3.1.5 of the National Building Code, which defines assembly buildings as buildings where at least 50 people convene. As per the Delhi Fire Rules, 2010, only assembly buildings are required to obtain an NOC from the Fire Department. This, the petitioner claims, is problematic.

“The interpretation of the law, as it today stands, is to the effect that if a restaurant is 49 seater then it does not qualify as an assembly building and therefore does not warrant an NOC from the Fire Department, however if it is a 50 seater restaurant, it would be an assembly building and therefore would be an occupancy which is likely to cause a risk of fire.

Therefore, the prescription of 50 persons, being unfounded on any intelligible differentia, is also hit by Article 14 of the Constitution of India and deserves to be reconsidered by the authorities.”