Quashes Collector’s order refusing to grant licence for the five theatres

The Madras High Court Bench here on Friday cleared the decks for the inauguration of a multiplex in the city by directing the Madurai Collector to issue licence for operating five theatres by INOX Leisure at the fifth and sixth floors of Vishaal-de-Mall here.

Justice R. Subbiah passed the orders while allowing a writ petition filed by Vishaal Promoters, represented by its chairman R. Ilankovan, to quash an order passed by the Collector on October 8 last year refusing to issue the licence on many grounds including lack of fire safety measures.

The Collector had contended that it was not safe to operate the theatres on the fifth and sixth floors of the mall as there were very limited means of evacuation of people during emergencies. He also envisaged a stampede when panic stricken people try to rush down the staircases.

However, replying to it, the mall promoters said that the apprehension raised by the Collector was without basis as the mall had two sets of staircase and one of them situated on the rear side could lead the people up to basement number two used as a car parking area.

It was also pointed out that the steps on the escalator could be used as an additional staircase during emergencies. The seating capacity of Screen 1 and Screen 2 were 166 and 178 respectively and each one of them had one entry and one exit point.

Similarly, Screen 3 had a seating capacity of 350 with two entry and two exit points. In cases of emergency, both the entry and exit points could be used for evacuation. Further, most of the materials used inside the theatre halls were fire resistant, the promoters added.

After recording their submissions, the judge said that he did not find any substance in the Collector’s apprehension in view of a report submitted by an expert team constituted by the court on December 14 under the leadership of a Joint Director of Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services.

The team had found the theatres to be compliant with the norms prescribed under the National Building Code of India 2005. Its report stated that a total of 179 fire extinguishers were provided throughout the building from the basement to the sixth floor.

It also found in the mall, a hose reel, wet riser, yard hydrant, manually operated fire alarm, automatic sprinkler system, automatic smoke detection and alarm system, a 20,000 litre water tank on the terrace and an underground sump with a capacity to hold 2 lakh litres of water exclusively for fire fighting purpose.

On the Collector’s other contention that the planning permission for the mall had not been obtained from Local Planning Authority, the judge said that there was no illegality in having got the permission from Madurai Municipal Corporation which was delegated with the power during 2007 and 2009.

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