One of Delhi’s swankiest markets known for its bustling lanes filled with prodigal bakeries and restaurants, Khan Market is a virtual “firetrap” and all restaurants and shops on the upper floors must be shut if no fire NOC has been obtained, the Delhi High Court announced on Friday.
The stir was caused by a petition filed by the Khan Market Welfare Association (KMWA) – a group of 50-odd restaurant and shop owners on the first floor of the market complex.
Restaurants Under Threat
First floor restaurants comprise Urban Café, Amici, Big Chill, Mamagoto, Barcelos and Town Hall among others.
The association had moved Delhi High Court in 2013 complaining that New Delhi Municipal Council had not implemented the Khan Market Redevelopment Plan, including a fire emergency plan, putting the lives of thousands of store owners and shoppers at risk.
KMWA Tongue Tied
When the case came up for hearing on Friday, Delhi High Court Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw asked KMWA counsel, “If you don’t have fire safety, why are you running it? Do you have a fire NOC (No Objection Certificate)? If not, then we must close this (operations on first and second floor).” The judge also put NDMC’s argument to him, “Is there any provision in law which makes a civic body pay for developing a private property.” The KMWA counsel had no reply to that.
The judge noted, “Either you withdraw the petition or I will pass the order. These observations are recorded for the next date of hearing.”
A Fiery Debate
KMWA advocate Amit Bhagat had quoted minutes of a Ministry of Urban Development meeting for preparing a redevelopment plan of Khan Market as per the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 in a time-bound fashion. To bolster his case of NDMC delaying the programme, he also provided a letter of the Delhi Fire Service of 2011, which stated that Khan Market needs urgent fire safety measures,.
On the other hand, NDMC advocate Anil Grover said, “We have already appointed an expert agency, IIT (Roorkee), for advice of retro-fittings of the old structures of Khan Market established in 1950. We have made advance payment to them as well. However, we can only technically facilitate the stakeholders but cannot expend on implementing the plan.”
NDMC secretary Nikhil Kumar, when contacted by Mail Today, restated the stand. “We haven’t shied away from our responsibility to handhold them through the process, but we can’t spend public money on them,” he said.
Whereas, a member of KMWA who did not wish to be named said, “The fire NOC is being delayed by NDMC itself. They keep changing their stand on the issue as well as the files.”
But can we or can we not visit the market without the fear of being burnt with uneaten food on our plates?