The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed all relevant authorities to submit a report on the Baldia Town factory fire incident and ascertain whether or not all public-use residential and commercial buildings had taken safety measures to deal with any emergency.
A division bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar, issued these directives while hearing a petition of the Raah-e-Raast Trust that sought a detailed inquiry report on the ill-fated garment factory, which was gutted in the fire that broke out on the evening of September 11 and claimed hundreds of lives.
Trust chairman Agha Syed Attaullah Shah submitted in the petition that due to criminal negligence on the part of civic agencies, public-use buildings were devoid of safety, security and life-saving measures. He said tragic fire incidents frequently caused deaths due to the non-availability of emergency exit doors and stairs and other firefighting arrangements in multi-storey commercial, public, industrial and educational buildings.
He said factory workers could not be rescued due to the non-availability of emergency exit doors and stairs and lack of a proper rescue operation by the fire brigade department.
The petitioner prayed to the court to direct the civic agencies, including the KMC and SITE, to furnish a list of all public-use buildings, including factories, education institutions, and multi-storey residential and commercial buildings, where adequate arrangements for emergency exits, fire alarms etc were not available. He urged that directions be given to the authorities to ensure the requisite safety measures in such buildings without any delay.
Justice Baqar, observed that the petition was related to public interest and issued notices to the SITE, the Ministry of Industries, the DG Health, the home department, the KMC, the labour director and other civic agencies to file detailed comments on whether essential prerequisites pertaining to the buildings and areas had been put in place.
The bench told all respondents to submit their comments in respect of their duties and functions with regard to the safety and security and life-saving efforts and measures. They were also told to tell the bench under what law they were obliged and competent to carry out and enforce such provisions.
Justice Maqbool Baqar ordered that reports would clearly and distinctly reveal as to what extent such obligations had been fulfilled and to also explain reasons for the non-fulfillment of all such measures.
He directed the relevant authorities to explain within three weeks without fail what the mechanism was for coordination among various departments in the city in case of a fire or other emergency. The bench said the report should tell the court whether there were adequate facilities for filling or refilling fire tenders in different areas and what standby arrangements were in place for the evacuation of the victims of any accident and their medical treatment etc.
The bench directed the labour department, the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution, and the Employees Old Age Benefit to submit comments on whether they had ensured that all industrial and other workers required to be registered with them were so registered and verify the correctness of such registration.
The SESSI was told to submit a report explaining in what manner the funds available with it were being spent on the welfare of labourers. It was also told inform the court in detail whether the functionaries/officers deputed to carry out or ensure such functions were adequately qualified or not.
Notices were also issued to the Pakistan Labour Federation, the Pakistan Medical Association, the CPLC, the Institute of Architects and Engineers and Abdul Rehman and Faisal Siddiqui advocates to assist the court. The hearing will resume on October 10.