Under the Telangana Fire Service Act, 1999, the responsibility of complying with the provisions of the Act in respect of a multi-storied building, comprising of individual flats, is solely on the builder of the said flats and not on the owner/occupier. President or secretary of the residential welfare association cannot be placed on the same footing as that of a builder of high-rise building which is constituted by individual flats that are allotted to different persons.
An individual, who is either owner or occupier of a building, would be liable under Section 19 of the Act if there is any violation of the provisions of the Act. Section 13 of the Act applies only to the builders and it does not apply to the owners or occupiers.
In a case before the High Court, the petitioner-accused sought to quash the case pending against him before the trial court, registered for the offences punishable under Sections 13 and 19 of the Fire Service Act. A complaint is filed stating that the inspecting officer inspected the subject premises after issuing notice as per the rules, to the owner/occupier and builder of a high-rise building in the city. The petitioner herein is prosecuted for he being secretary of the residential welfare association.
After hearing the counsel for the petitioner-accused and the State public prosecutor, the High Court found that there is absolutely no allegation against the petitioner that he is the person who has applied for a building plan. In this case, the responsibility for applying building plan is absolutely on the builder who has constructed the subject building and only a part of which is occupied by the petitioner herein. He acts as representative of the flat owners, only to look after the affairs pertaining to maintenance of the building which is handed over to them after complying with all the requirements pertaining to the building construction, one of which is to obtain ‘No objection certificate’ (NOC) under Section 13 of the Act.
Section 13(2) of the Act requires a satisfaction on the part of the director general concerned to whom an application is made about the provision of fire prevention and safety measures. Hence, the director general has to satisfy himself that the provision of fire prevention and safety measures are duly complied with by the person making an application for construction of the building by submitting the building plans. In this case, the petitioner did not play any role in submission of the building plans or in obtaining NOC, the Court noted.
After perusing the material on record, the High Court said it appears that the prosecution is launched on an isolated understanding of Section 19 of the Act. The subject premises is stated to be high-rise building which is constructed by the builder and not the petitioner who comes out of the purview of Section 19. The responsibility of complying with the provisions of the Act in respect of a multi storied building, comprising of individual flats, is solely on the builder of the said flats and not on the owner/occupier. No provisions of the Act would apply to the petitioner since no burden lies on him to take up the fire safety measures in the building which is constructed by the builder, the court said.
The Court opined that continuation of further proceedings against the petitioner would result in sheer abuse of process of law and they cannot be sustained. Accordingly, the petition is allowed by quashing all further proceedings pending against the petitioner before the lower court.