Ernakulam district collector Mohammed Y. Safirulla K has issued a notice to close down the multiplex theatre Cinepolis at Centre Square mall in MG road, Kochi.
The notice said that the theatre was functioning at a height of 40m without a no-objection certificate (NOC) from Fire & Safety department.
Around six months ago, the department had issued notices to 700 buildings, warning them against poor maintenance of fire safety systems. When they conducted another inspection two months later, the officials found that 250 of the 700 buildings had still not rectified their flaws. It was after this that the department filed a report with the district collector that the theatre in the Centre Square mall did not have the NOC.
As per the national building code, auditoriums and theatres above 30m height cannot be allowed as evacuation at the time of emergency becomes difficult. Fire & Safety department had refused to issue NOC citing this issue.
But the owners of the building MS Peeves Project Private Ltd approached High Court and secured a temporary occupancy certificate and also managed to get a cinematography licence from Cochin Corporation. Even five years after its opening in 2012, the theatre complex did not secure the NOC.
Earlier, the district administration had asked the corporation to act on the breach, but the latter had informed that there was a court order regarding this and they couldnâ€™t take any action.
The Times of India reports that it was after evoking the clauses in Disaster Management Act, 2005 that the district collector issued the order asking Kochi corporation secretary to close down the multiplex.
Since the corporation authorities failed to take action against it after repeated orders from the district administration, the collector himself issued the notice.
As per the ToI report, the collector had sought a legal opinion from the Advocate General whether it would be a contempt of court to issue a closure notice, since there was an interim order from HC. But AG opined that â€śall the orders issued by Kerala high court in Centre Square case are related to Kerala Municipal Building Rules (KMBR). These orders can't stand in the way of disaster management authority taking action under Disaster Management Act, 2005.â€ť
The AG also pointed out the case of Uphaar cinemas fire in Delhi that claimed 59 lives in 1997.