"Can't Run Game Zone At Cost Of Children Being Killed": Gujarat High Court

"Innocent people of the state should not die in fires like this," the Gujarat High Court said on the Rajkot game zone fire, adding, "Such incidents like this are happening due to violation of fire safety rules."

Rajkot gaming zone incident: The fire on Saturday killed 28 people.


The Gujarat High Court on Monday lamented the heart-breaking death of 28 people, including nine children, after a fire ripped through a gaming zone in Rajkot that lacked the required permits.

The gaming zone - backed by six partners, of whom only two have been arrested so far, was set up in 2021, but did not apply for a fire safety certificate till this year, the court was told.

"This incident is an eye-opener. System's eyes have opened after the death of innocent children. Such a game zone cannot be run at the cost of small children being killed," the court said, directing the ruling BJP to file, as an affidavit, the report to be submitted a special investigative team.

The team - set up immediately after the blaze - had been given 72 hours to file a report (the provisional deadline, therefore, is Wednesday), but an interim document expected today.

"How can a game zone run without permission under the nose of the (city) corporation... of the local police station?" it asked, "When will families stop losing loved ones due to man-made tragedies? This needs to be answered..." The court directed all concerned civic bodies and fire departments to take necessary steps to ensure rules are followed for all structures, temporary or otherwise.

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"Innocent people of the state should not die in fires like this," the court also said, adding, "Such incidents like this are happening due to violation of fire safety rules."

For the Rajkot incident, the court has demanded the municipal body chief and the concerned civic officers inform it of steps taken since 2021 to ensure city buildings are up to code; city officials and the state received a sharp reprimand earlier today after admitting that gaming zones in Rajkot and Ahmedabad did not have certain permits, including a critical NOC from the Fire Department.

"We can file contempt of court (charges)... but it is not necessary at this stage," a furious court warned the heads of the Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, and Rajkot municipal body chiefs.

The Chief Fire Officer of each city has also been hauled up; s/he has been told to submit an affidavit that details fire safety exits and equipment available at gaming zones in their jurisdiction.

They have also been told to submit reports for future planning. "The concerned corporation officials, including the commissioner, have to be fixed," the court stressed.

READ | "Now Don't Trust Gujarat Government": Court On Rajkot Fire Lapses

Earlier today the Gujarat High Court said it could no longer "trust" the state government, which is controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP. This was after the Rajkot municipal body told the court its approval - for building and running the game zone - had not been taken.

"This has been going on for two-and-a-half years (referring to the Rajkot gaming zone). Are we to assume you turned a blind eye? What do you and your followers do?" the court thundered.

The hearing then went from bad to worse for the Rajkot municipal body after photographs showed officials at the gaming zone. "Who were these officers? Did they go there to play?" the court asked.

The court also ripped into the state government.

READ | Welding Sparks May Have Caused Fire At Gujarat Gaming Zone

"Have you gone blind? Did you fall asleep? Now we do not trust the local system and the state," the court raged when told fire safety certification hearings have been unresolved for four years.

Newly-Wed Couple Killed

Among those who died in the Rajkot game zone fire were a newly-wed couple - Akshay Dholaria and his wife Khyati, as well as his sister-in-law, Harita, to unwind after the wedding festivities.

READ | Newly-Wed Couple, Bride's Sister Killed In Rajkot Gaming Zone Fire

Akshay, 24, who lived with his parents in Canada, came to Rajkot to marry Khyati, 20. They had a court marriage last Saturday - a week before the tragedy.

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Those killed included five of the Jadeja family. including children between 10 and 15 years old.

Three Arrested, Six Suspended

Apart from the arrests six officials, including two cops and three civic body officials - have been suspended for "gross negligence". Also, a police case - with charges of culpable homicide - has been filed against the six partners who owned the gaming zone.

READ | Bodies Burnt Beyond Recognition In Rajkot Fire, DNA Samples Taken

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has announced aid of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 each to the injured. Mr Modi has said he is "extremely distressed" by the tragedy.

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