Forest fire endangering lives of Balika ashram inmates: Taking suo moto action HC issues notice to State Govt

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Photo used for indicative purpose only. Source internet

Shimla, May 2

The High Court of Himachal Pradesh, today issued notice to the State Government, through its Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (Forest), Principal Secretary HPPWD, Deputy Commissioner Shimla and Member Secretary, Pollution Control Board, in a matter regarding devastating forest fire that broke on 01.05.2022 near Tutikandi, Shimla and also reached Balika Ashram endangering the lives of inmates of the Ashram.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Chander Bhusan Barowalia, passed these orders on a petition taken up suo moto by the Court as Public Interest Litigation, on the basis of news item published in a vernacular daily. The news item reported that a raging forest fire that broke near Tutikandi, on 01.05.2022, burnt the prime forest land in the city causing immense loss to the green cover. The fire reached Balika Ashram, Tutikandi, Shimla where an art workshop was being conducted under the skill development programme. At about 1:00 PM, the screams were heard about spreading of fire from the backside of Balika Ashram building and playground. Quick action was taken by the people present, fire brigade was called and authorities including SDM were informed. Taking note of the situation, the children of the Ashram were gathered in an open place and infants from the Shishu Grah were brought to the open area away from the smoke. The girls from the Ashram showed bravery and climbed on the water tanks to save the Ashram. The fire-brigade was stuck at Tutikandi Bust Stand due to narrow road. Fifteen infants aged about 0 to 6 years were sent to US Club Ashram and about 73 other children were taken to Baldeyan Ashram.

The fire incident took place during day, had the fire broke during night, it could have been more devastating and resulted in heavy loss of life and property.

The Court has appointed Shrawan Dogra, Senior Advocate, as Amicus Curiae to render assistance in this case. The matter has been adjourned for 23.05.2022, for filing of reply by the respondents.

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