The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted four weeks to such of those States and Union Territories to file compliance reports on implementation of the fire safety norms for school buildings.

A Bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan made it clear that if affidavits were not filed, the Chief Secretaries/Administrators concerned would have to personally appear in the court on the next date of hearing.

The Bench passed this order on a petition filed by Avinash Mehrotra, who wanted the court to formulate a comprehensive time bound report for carrying out reforms in the safety standards prescribed for schools following the Kumbakonam school fire tragedy in July 2004 which 93 children died.

In April 2009, the court directed all the States and Union Territories to implement the safety measures prescribed by the National Building Code of India, 2005 in all government and private schools. The court pointed out that 27 States and UTs had admitted that many schools did not meet their self-determined safety standards, let alone the more rigorous standards of the National Building Code. “By their own admission, States have not met these standards and they have welcomed this court's guidance in achieving improvement.” It noted that the majority of the schools had not installed even the basic fire extinguishing equipment.

Neither did they have emergency exits. Before granting recognition or affiliation to the schools, the States/Union Territories must ensure “that the buildings are safe and secured from every angle and they are constructed according to the safety norms incorporated in the National Building Code, 2005.

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