Coaching centres with over 20 students must move out of residential areas: Delhi High Court

The Delhi HC bench said that students risk their lives at coaching centres in residential buildings as they don't have the safety measures.

Delhi HC asks coaching centres having over 20 students to move out of residential buildings. (Image: Official)Delhi HC asks coaching centres having over 20 students to move out of residential buildings. (Image: Official)

Press Trust of India | February 15, 2024 | 07:23 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Thursday said coaching centres that have more than 20 students should move out of residential areas and operate from commercial spaces. A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan, while hearing a petition filed by the Coaching Federation of India, observed that students "run the risk of their lives" at coaching centres operating from residential buildings that do not have the requite safety infrastructure, such as two staircases.

"There must be hundreds of students attending your classes. You should not be in a residential building. Move to a commercial building," the court orally remarked. "You cannot operate from a residential area. Where students are more than 20, you must move out," the bench, also comprising Justice Manmeet P S Arora, said.

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The petitioner assailed before the court the inclusion of coaching centres in the definition of "educational buildings", thus requiring them to employ certain specific measures for fire safety etc. In February 2020, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) modified its Unified Building Bye Laws-2016 (UBBL-2016), including coaching centres in the definition of "Educational Buildings". "The DDA has come up with a notification classifying me as an educational institute. The notification come out in 2020. We are seeking that the notification must go and we need a clarification," advocate Rajeshwari Hariharan, appearing in the court on behalf of the petitioner, said.

The court directed that the petition be listed for hearing on Friday before another division bench dealing with the issue of fire safety at coaching centres, while stating that it cannot stay a notification that came out in 2020. "We cannot stay a 2020 notification. This is involving human lives," the court said. The petitioner's lawyer submitted that under the UBBL, educational institutes are required to have several features, such as two staircases and a playground, which may not be possible in an already-existing residential building. She also said there is a distinction between a coaching centre and an educational institute as the latter offers a degree or diploma at the end of a course.

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In the petition filed through lawyer Saakshi Khandelwal, the petitioner said the notification was arbitrary and in contravention of the Master Plan for Delhi (MDP)-2021, Fire Safety Rules and provisions of the UBBL, which classifies residential buildings up to a height of 15m/17.5m in a low/moderate-risk category and exempts such structures from taking safety authorisations. "Impugned notification is in violation of Article 13(2), Article 19(1)(g) and Article 14 of the Constitution of India, 1950 being ambiguous, arbitrary, defying the principle of intelligible differentia and in utter disregard and ignorance of MPD-2021, NBC-2016 and the other related provisions governing the establishment of coaching centres, construction and classification of buildings," the petition said.

"I cannot be an educational institute. I cannot be subject to the rigours that educational institutes must follow," Hariharan told the court. She, however, clarified that coaching centres are willing to comply with the fire safety norms and have an audit as well. The counsel for the DDA said MPD-2041 is expected to come out soon. The high court registered a case last year by taking suo-motu cognisance of a fire that broke out at a coaching centre in Mukherjee Nagar in June and saw students climbing down the building using ropes. A preliminary inquiry suggested that the fire started from an electricity meter board in the five-storey building, officials said. According to police, around 250 students were attending classes at the building -- Bhandari House -- at the time.

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