Mumbai: Did you start the fire? Be ready to cough up some compensation
Centre's proposed Bill considers role of property owner in starting blaze, making him/her liable to pay penalty; it also recommends fire tax as part of property tax
The central home ministry is keen to have a uniform fire force for better control and command, say experts. Representational Image
Don't be surprised if the fireman holds you liable to pay compensation for damages due to your negligence or action if your property is on fire. And you could even find a new fire tax included in your property tax.
These are some of the recommendations made in the proposed Maintenance of Fire and Emergency Services Bill 2016 prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Centre has sent the 30-page proposal to all states and union territories for implementation, with certain omissions and deletions, as per the respective state governments' requirement.
Here's what's proposed
The draft proposal states, "Any person whose property catches fire on account of his/her own action… done deliberately or negligently shall be liable to pay compensation to any other person suffering damage to his/her property because of that action..."
"The appellate authority shall, after hearing the party, determine the amount of compensation due and pass an order… and the order shall have the force or a decree of a civil court," the Bill adds.
The new Bill also directs the state governments to levy a fire tax on lands and buildings situated in any area in which the Bill is in force and on which property tax is levied by the area's local authority. The fire tax shall be levied in the form of a surcharge, a small percentage of the property tax.
Besides this, a fee will be charged for deployment of fire and emergency services beyond the limits of a state in order to extinguish a fire in the neighbourhood under any other state government; the fire and services authority of the neighbouring state/local body will have to pay fees as prescribed by the state government from time to time, which shall be payable in a month, failing which it shall be recoverable as arrears of land revenue.
Former director of Maharashtra Fire Services and adviser to state government MV Deshmukh, who claims to be a part of the committee that assisted the Centre in drafting the Bill, said, "The central home ministry is keen to have a uniform fire force for better control and command. Barring a few states, such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, part of Madhya Pradesh (Indore fire service is under MP state, but the rest is under the municipality), Haryana and Punjab, that don't have a full-fledged state fire service, the rest, including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Tamil Nadu, have theirs in place."
When contacted, director of fire services in Maharashtra, who is also the chief fire officer of Mumbai Fire Brigade, Prabhat Rahangdale said, "We are going through the proposed Bill. As far as the Mumbai Fire Brigade is concerned, we are well equipped and have a full-fledged command centre, but when it comes to the rest of the state, we have a lot to do. The Centre has asked for our opinion on the Bill; I will submit my views accordingly."
As per the law
The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, and Rules, 2009, already covers most of the points stated in the proposed Bill, barring having a uniform fire service department, holding the owner of the property accountable for the accident, liable to pay compensation, and imposition of a fire tax. Mumbai and certain civic bodies in Maharashtra already levy 2-4% on property tax towards a fire tax.
'Additional burden of fire tax is not a wise idea. Also, holding the owner of the flat responsible for damages due to fire seems far-fetched; s/he may not have control over an accidental fire or short circuit'
Real estate expert
'This is going to further stress the common man. Owner of the property, who has lost everything in the fire, cannot be held accountable. Such a norm will bring in fire insurance complexity'
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