Kolkata Fire: HC Says Stephen Court Cannot Be Demolished

The Calcutta High Court has said that no portion of Stephen Court can be brought down without permission, said media reports.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) started bringing down the top floors of the building in the morning following a massive fire on Tuesday which killed 24 people, said reports.

Residents objected to the demolition activity and went to the court for stopping it, reports said, adding that residents union also alleged that their flats were being looted in the name of demolition.

Worried members of the Corporation, however, contended that the fire-ravaged parts of Stephen Court were in unstable condition and could collapse.

On Tuesday, the fire allegedly started in the lift of the building, above the city’s landmark confectionary shop, Flury’s. The six-storey Stephen Court turned within seconds into a death trap. Ten people are still missing.

The incidence proves a series of lapses. “The top two floors are illegal. We are investigating what the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s role was at that time, who is the owner of the building. The city has a coterie of illegal builders with whom the administration is involved. Unless we take tough steps against them, we cannot stop this. Exemplary punishment will be taken. The fire has taught the government to intervene in such situations immediately,” Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was quoted as admitting in the state assembly.

The chief minister said that investigation would be carried out in the Municipal Corporation’s role, along with that of the owner Sanjay Bagadia, who is still missing, reports said.

Caretakers Tarun Bagadia and Ram Shankar Singh were arrested on Wednesday.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation, on its part, insists that the top two floors had been regularized, reports said.

The Corporation said, “There are 10 lakh buildings in the city, 800 are heritage…30 to 40 people cannot go to each and every building and check them for violations, this does not happen anywhere in the world.”

It further said that in the wake of construction of the top two floors, the owner paid a penalty, which legitimizes the construction, according to the city’s laws, reports said.

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