Crystal Tower Fire: Residents Took Possession Without OC
A 17-storey residential building, Crystal Tower in Mumbai’s Parel area caught fire on August 22 in which two floors were completely gutted killing four people and injuring 21. The posh high-rise building was home to 36 people who were staying in this building that did not have a fire-fighting equipment or proper fire-safety system. The five-year-old building did not have the mandatory Occupancy Certificate (OC) from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) but was already occupied by the residents despite repeated warnings from the authority.
The crystal-clear case
The fire accident has left many wondering as to who is the real culprit behind this. Since the building does not have an OC, its firefighting system was not in place. While the builder has been arrested under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Lift Safety Act 2006 and has been slapped with sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others) 337 (causing hurt) and 338 (causing grievous hurt) of the Indian Penal Code, the residents who took possession without the OC are also at equal fault.
The civic body had issued a notice to the builder in October 2016 as also to the 58 occupants to vacate the building within seven days but it was challenged in the court and is still sub-judice.
For now, the Fire Department has declared the building unsafe after the blaze and recommended disconnection of electricity and water supply. The department has also suggested the police to file a case of criminal negligence against those responsible for allowing the occupants to live in an unsafe building.
The root cause
According to Indian Express, there are roughly 56,000 buildings in the city that do not possess OCs but are occupied by the residents. The civic norms suggest that flat owners cannot live in a flat until the OC is provided by the building proposals department of the BMC. Ideally, a building without proper permission should not be provided with water and electricity connection but BMC has a provision to not to cut water connections but to charge twice the current rate from flat owners and a higher property tax. Currently, there are 24 criterion that needs to be fulfilled to get an OC, which include meeting the prescribed safety norms and ensuring zero violations during construction. While the provision has been included on humanitarian grounds, the main culprits are the builders and developers who do not procure the OC and give possession to the owners. The BMC officials have added that the residents would pressurize the builders and developers to get OCs if the authority will charge them double for the basic amenities.