News Brief

"Turned Blind Eye?": Gujarat High Court Anger Erupts Over Safety Failures In Rajkot Gaming Zone Fire Tragedy That Killed 28

Swarajya Staff

May 27, 2024, 03:21 PM | Updated 03:21 PM IST

Rescue work after fire at Rajkot gaming zone.
Rescue work after fire at Rajkot gaming zone.

Two days after a devastating fire at a video gaming zone in Rajkot killed 28 people, including nine children, the Gujarat High Court has criticised the city's municipal body for failing to certify at least two such structures in the city.

The court expressed outrage upon learning that two gaming zones had been operating for over 24 months without the necessary permits, including fire safety certificates, as per a report by NDTV.

The Rajkot gaming zone, it was revealed, was granted a licence by local police in November last year, which was renewed until 31 December 2024, according to Rajkot Police Commissioner Raju Bhargava.

"This has been going on for two-and-a-half years (referring to the Rajkot gaming zone). Are we to assume you turned a blind eye? What do you and your followers do?" the court demanded to know.

The hearing deteriorated further for the Rajkot municipal body when photographs showed officials at the gaming zone. "Who were these officers? Did they go there to play?" the court questioned.

Advocate Manisha Luv Kumar Shah, representing the state government, acknowledged that two other gaming zones in Ahmedabad lacked operating permissions and stated that a special team had been formed to investigate all such issues and report back within 72 hours.

In an attempt to reassure the court of actions being taken, the state mentioned that three owners had been arrested and the process of detaining the remaining owners was "ongoing."

Meanwhile, the court highlighted "many incidents" in the past and stated, "...we have given many decisions and instructions in the past four years. Even after that, six incidents took place in the state."

Among the major fire-related incidents in Gujarat since 2023 were a blaze at a chemical factory in Surat in November that killed seven people and injured a dozen more.

As the fire spread, a temporary structure collapsed near the entrance, trapping several people. The facility had only one emergency exit.

There was some fire safety equipment, but the action taken was insufficient, according to the police.

This morning, six officials, including two police officers and three civic body officials, were suspended for "gross negligence." A police case with charges of culpable homicide has been filed against the six partners who owned the gaming zone, and two people have been arrested, police said.

The state has formed a five-member team, led by Additional Director General of Police Subhash Trivedi, to investigate the incident.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has announced compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 each to the injured.

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