In India, as many as 8,491 cases of fire accidents were reported in 2021, as per the recent statistics provided by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). In Uttar Pradesh, as many as 416 persons were killed in at least 393 fire incidents that took place last year.1 These statistics cover all types of fire accidents in the country. However, the focus of the present study is on hotel fires, and especially on the fire accident at Hotel Levana Suites in Lucknow that happened in the morning of 5th September this year. This hotel is situated at Madan Mohan Malviya Marg, Hazratganj in the heart of the city, very near to Vidhan Sabha and the Lucknow city's old and iconic market, Hazratganj. In the accident, as many as four people died on the spot and more than a dozen people were injured. At the time of the accident, 18 rooms were booked and 35 people were occupying the rooms. Before delving deep into the nitty-gritty of the accident, it would be worthwhile to know about the past such incidents involving hotels in Lucknow:

Past Major Fire Accidents in Lucknow:

  1. In June 2018, seven people lost their lives in a fire accident at Hotel Virat and S.J. International situated at Naka Hindola, a busy marketplace. Both the hotels were running illegally.
  2. On April 12,2022, Fire broke out in the Hotel Savvy Grand at Gomtinagar in which about 100 people were stranded. Luckily, no casualty took place.

Major Reasons for Fire Casualties

Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

1. Non-availability of Legally Required Frontage

According to the rules, a space of six meters around the hotel for movement of fire tenders in case of fire, is mandatorily required. But this space was not left during construction by the hotel owners. As a consequence, the fire service authorities were compelled to bulldoze a wall to enter the hotel. Fire tenders barely managed to reach from one or two sides. In case of availability of the desired space, the fire tenders could have managed to reach from all sides without losing much time and controlled the fire much earlier.

2. Lack of Sufficient Fire Safety Arrangements in the Kitchen

In the kitchen, it is mandatory to have water hydrants and fire extinguishers, as per rules. Unfortunately, hotel Levana had none of these facilities inside the kitchen. Incidentally, the fire broke out in the hotel from the kitchen itself.

3. An Old Semi-Residential Building Converted into Hotel

The hotel was running from an old-residential building. The owner did not construct a new building for the hotel purpose as per the prevailing norms. Prior to its conversion into the hotel, there used to be the office of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). After the shifting of that office, the building took the shape of the hotel without getting the map approved. At that time, all standards relating to hotel business were not met. Recently, about three months ago, a staircase was built from outside without obtaining the permission of the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA). But the action failed to catch the attention of the LDA officials. The hotel was standing on the property number 22 in the residential area which is registered in the name of 12 other people, while the owners' names are missing in the records of Nagar Nigam. Moreover, since 2017, the hotel has been running illegally without getting the map legally passed by the LDA authorities.

4. No Installation of Exhaust Fans in the Hotel

According to rules, it is mandatory to install exhaust fans for removal of smoke. However, there was no such fan in the hotel. Firemen on duty stated that the ensuing deaths could have been avoided, if there had been sufficient exhaust fans at the appropriate places. The people who died due to unbearable suffocation could be saved as these fans would have blown out the thick layer of smoke.

5. No Fire Escape

The hotel lacked the fire escape facility. There was no arrangement for exit after the fire broke out. There was no provision for an emergency gate. Moreover, the walls were covered with glass to give them a sleek and luxurious look. Not only this but also, iron plates were installed on these grills. That made the escape of the people impossible. Nobody could enter from outside or escape from inside.

That is why the rescue operation took about eight hours to complete. First, these plates and grills were cut and then only after breaking glass, the rescue team was able to enter the rooms inside. This delay contributed to the increased number of casualties.

6. Illegal Power Connection in the Hotel

The fire inside the Hotel Levana Suites was due to an electrical short circuit. The hotel did not hold a valid No Objection Certificate (NOC) with regard to the electrical installations in the hotel. The validity of the NOC for the hotel's power connection lapsed in August 2020. No application was presented for its renewal by the owner or the management afterwards which was mandatory every three years. In the meantime, no periodic inspection of the hotel premises was carried out by the Directorate of Electrical Safety officials of this department are mandated to inspect a premise and safety of electrical installations each time before the renewal of the NOC or reject the application for renewal, as the case may be. The Directorate works under the Energy Department and is mandated under Rule 46 of the Indian Electricity Rules, 1956 to carry out initial as well as periodical inspections of all industrial, commercial complexes, multi-storey residential/government buildings and issue a no-objection certificate for the power connection or renew it accordingly, declaring a building safe.2 In this context, it may be mentioned here that the Electricity department had given the electric connection to the hotel on the basis of false map of the building, allegedly passed by the Lucknow Development Authority(LDA).3

As mentioned earlier, the primary reason for this devastating fire inside the hotel was short circuit. This was under wall short circuit. According to the report of the Electrical Safety Directorate, about 30 air conditioners in the whole premises of the hotel. Short circuit in the compressor of A.C. is also brought to notice before the authorities. This had resulted in burning of cables in the Panel Room which was on the first floor. Further, the concealed wiring under wall also burned, many meters in length. The whole campus had a connection of 250 kilowatts which was fully operational. Here, it has been mandated under the Rule 29 of the Central Electricity Authority 2010 to follow certain directions while performing the work of electrification in any premises, whether residential or commercial. However, no compliance seems to have been done by the owners/management of Hotel Levana. This was a clear dereliction of their duties by the departmental officials.4

7. Conditional NOC by the Fire Department

According to the Fire department official, the NOC of the Fire department was given to the hotel in the year 2017. In February 2021, it was renewed conditionally. After that, the hotel was inspected by the departmental authorities in October 2021. Certain deficiencies were found and the hotel management was asked to comply with the directions in this regard, failing which the hotel management will be held responsible. Thus, for more than one and half year, the hotel was running on the basis of a conditional NOC of the Fire department. It came to notice that there were firefighting instruments, but they were not functional. No maintenance of these instruments took place for several years. Moreover, when the temperature increased due to fire, neither the sensor alarm sounded, nor the sprinkler started.5

The Results of the Enquiry:

In the aftermath of this ghastly fire accident of Hotel Levana, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh ordered a high-level probe to be done jointly by the Divisional Commissioner and Commissioner of Police, Lucknow. The joint committee in its report indicted several officers of the home, energy, appointment, housing and urban planning (Lucknow Development Authority) and excise departments. On the basis of their report, the government took stringent action by suspending 15 officials. Besides, four retired personnel will also face action under applicable rules.

The probe report pinpointed alleged 'connivance' in connection with the functioning of the Lucknow hotel. The report further mentioned multiple flaws related to the entry and exit routes, as well as faulty fire-safety gadgets. Deficiencies were reportedly found in fire-fighting equipment inside the hotel. It also came to light that in spite of inadequate fire-fighting arrangements, the fire department had given an NOC to the hotel. The report stated that there was no emergency exit, but no civic department raised an objection. Moreover, no notices were issued to the hotel highlighting these deficiencies. It was also found that the parking lot in the basement was used for storage purposes instead of parking vehicles. The kitchen had open wiring exposing everyone to fire in case of short circuit. Furthermore, the bar was reportedly operational without safety equipment required to put out the flames. Besides, there were poor arrangements for evacuation, improper training of hotel staff and improper construction at numerous points.

The police had filed earlier an F.I.R under Sections 304,308 against four people, including the hotel's two owners.6


The Levana Suites hotel fire in Lucknow is not the end of hotel fires in the country. Previously also, hundreds of such fire accidents in hotels have taken place throughout the country. But the worrying point is that such accidents keep on happening at some intervals. It is not that there are no adequate laws, but their compliance by the officials of the concerned departments is much below the general expectation. After such incidents, probes and enquiries are conducted as a matter of routine, and then the enquiry report is consigned to record rooms where nobody monitors their compliance. The high and mighty escape through devious means. The tragedy remains unforgettable for the victims' families. In order to check the recurrence of such accidents, the active role of civil society is very much needed. The total dependence on the government machinery has failed to achieve the desired results. People keep on moving from one disaster to another. The deficiencies in the system cannot be ignored and should be brought to the knowledge of concerned departmental authorities from time to time. For this, the use of print and social media should be resorted to. For a safer society, not only the functioning of the government machinery should be above board, but also the role of active and aware citizens must be emphasized. People should monitor the progress of compliance report filed by the government officials till the end so that no further man-made lacunae remain in the faulty system. The government authorities should also ensure the regular inspections of the hotel sites and exert enough pressure on the owners to follow the rules and the laws. The lessons of a previous incident must be always kept in mind because any human failure will result in human casualty which is least desirable by anybody.

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  1. HT Correspondent, 416 killed in fire mishaps in Uttar Pradesh last year, Hindustan Times, Sep 7, 2022.
  2. Brajendra K Parashar, Levana Suites was running sans valid NOC since 2020, Hindustan Times, Sep 8, 2022.
  3. Dainik Jagran, Sep 6, 2022.
  4. Anshu Dixit, Dainik Jagran, Sep 10, 2022.
  5. Dainik Jagran, Sep 6, 2022.
  6. HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Sep 11, 2022.