“Children’s Lives Shouldn’t Be Sacrificed for the Sake of Running Game Zones,” says Gujarat High Court.

“The Gujarat High Court expressed concern over the loss of innocent lives in the Rajkot game zone fire, emphasizing that such tragedies occur due to the disregard for fire safety regulations.”

The Gujarat High Court expressed deep sorrow over the tragic loss of 28 lives, including nine children, in the Rajkot gaming zone fire. The court was informed that although the gaming zone, backed by six partners, was established in 2021, it failed to obtain a fire safety certificate until this year. Only two out of the six partners have been arrested thus far.

In response to this tragedy, the court emphasized the urgent need for action, stating that the system’s awareness has been sparked by the heartbreaking loss of innocent lives. It asserted that a gaming zone cannot operate at the expense of endangering children’s lives. The court directed the ruling BJP to submit a report through an affidavit to a special investigative team.

The team, formed promptly following the fire, was tasked with submitting a report within 72 hours (thus, the initial deadline is Wednesday), with an interim document anticipated today.

Questioning the oversight, the court inquired, “How could a gaming zone operate without proper authorization under the supervision of the city corporation and local police station?” It stressed the urgency of addressing the recurring loss of lives in preventable disasters, demanding answers.

The court instructed all relevant civic bodies and fire departments to enforce compliance with regulations for all structures, regardless of their temporary or permanent nature.

The court reiterated its stance that innocent citizens should not perish in fires like the one in Rajkot, attributing such incidents to violations of fire safety regulations.

Regarding the Rajkot incident, the court demanded accountability from the municipal body chief and relevant civic officers, requiring them to report on measures taken since 2021 to ensure compliance with building codes. City officials and the state received criticism for acknowledging the lack of permits, including a crucial NOC from the Fire Department, for gaming zones in Rajkot and Ahmedabad.

Expressing frustration, the court warned municipal body chiefs from Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, and Ahmedabad about potential contempt of court charges, though it stated that such actions were not immediate necessities.

The Chief Fire Officers of each city were also summoned, instructed to submit affidavits detailing fire safety provisions at gaming zones under their jurisdiction, along with future planning reports. Emphasizing accountability, the court highlighted the need to hold corporation officials, including commissioners, responsible.

Earlier today, the Gujarat High Court expressed a loss of confidence in the state government, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP. This dissatisfaction arose following revelations from the Rajkot municipal body that it had not granted approval for the construction and operation of the gaming zone.

Expressing frustration, the court questioned the municipal body’s inaction over the past two-and-a-half years regarding the Rajkot gaming zone, suggesting a lack of oversight. The court’s tone escalated as it criticized the municipality, particularly after photographs emerged showing officials present at the gaming zone. The court questioned their presence, sarcastically asking if they were there to partake in games.

Furthermore, the court heavily criticized the state government for its handling of the situation.

“Are you oblivious? Have you been neglecting your duties? We’ve lost faith in both the local administration and the state,” the court angrily exclaimed upon learning that fire safety certification hearings have remained unresolved for four years.

Newly-Wed Couple Among Victims of Rajkot Game Zone Fire

Tragically, among the victims of the Rajkot game zone fire were a recently married couple, Akshay Dholaria and his wife Khyati, along with Akshay’s sister-in-law, Harita. The trio had visited the gaming zone to relax after the wedding celebrations. Akshay, aged 24 and residing with his parents in Canada, had come to Rajkot to marry 20-year-old Khyati. Their court marriage took place just a week prior to the devastating incident.

The casualties of the Rajkot game zone fire tragically encompassed five members of the Jadeja family, including children aged between 10 and 15 years old.

Three Arrested, Six Officials Suspended for “Gross Negligence”

In addition to the arrests, six officials, including two police officers and three civic body officials, have been suspended for their “gross negligence.” Furthermore, a police case, with charges of culpable homicide, has been filed against the six partners who owned the gaming zone.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has declared financial assistance of ₹ 4 lakh for the families of the deceased and ₹ 50,000 for the injured. Expressing deep distress, Mr. Modi conveyed his profound sorrow regarding the tragedy.

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