New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS): In response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Arpit Bhargava, Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the authorities to conduct a comprehensive structural audit of public buildings such as hospitals and schools to assess their stability against potential earthquakes in the region.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan, said that while natural disasters like earthquakes are uncontrollable, the government and local authorities can take proactive measures by reviewing the structural integrity of their own buildings and formulating action plans.
The court specifically directed the Delhi government and other local agencies to conduct structural audits of all hospitals, schools, and colleges and submit status reports detailing their findings.
The PIL expressed concerns about the seismic stability of buildings in Delhi, suggesting that poor structural conditions could lead to a significant number of casualties in the event of a major earthquake.
Delhi government counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi assured the court that authorities are already taking action to address potential tremors. Tripathi apprised that ensuring seismic activity resistance for all buildings in the city would be a phased process, given the presence of old structures and the issue of unauthorised constructions.
The court noted the challenges posed by both old buildings and unauthorised constructions and urged the government to issue warnings to occupants of potentially unsafe structures.
The bench suggested posting notices declaring the structures as dangerous and unsafe.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) counsel said it was taking action against unauthorised constructions and the option of retrofitting in buildings to make them compliant with safety norms was also being considered. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) counsel said over 300 of its buildings were now compliant with the safety norms.
Bhargava, the petitioner, argued that only 10 per cent of buildings in Delhi meet seismic compliance standards, indicating a disaster waiting to happen. Despite court orders, he claimed repeated violations of safety requirements.
The Delhi government countered that the matter is not adversarial litigation, and the petitioner is welcome to provide suggestions to the authorities, who have already issued suitable directions.
The case, initiated in 2015, has seen ongoing directives from the high court to develop an action plan for earthquake preparedness. The court has listed the matter for further hearing on May 6, 2024.