The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Saturday morning issued eviction notices, under Section 488 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, to the owners of illegal flats in Worli’s Campa Cola compound, after the residents failed to surrender the keys to their flats.
“We have informed the residents that we would demolish the illegal structures from June 17,” said a senior civic official from the building proposals department.
As per a ruling of the Supreme Court (SC), the residents were ordered to vacate their illegal flats by May 31.
The notice also states that the civic body is taking this step because the residents “failed to vacate and deliver” keys of their flats. The residents were given time from May 29 to June 2, and thereafter from June 10 to June 12 to submit the keys to their flats at the G/South ward office in Lower Parel. From the first day of entering the premises on June 17, the BMC, along with the Mahanagar Gas Ltd and the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport undertaking (BEST), will disconnect the electricity and gas connections to the 96 illegal flats in seven buildings of the compound.
“We have been fighting this battle for over an year now and we will keep at it. We will sit in the compound and protest, but not leave our homes. We are middle-class people and we cannot afford to invest all our savings in a new flat now,” said Sunanda Verma, a resident of the Midtown Apartments.
Meanwhile, the residents also visited the Mayor’s office on Saturday to urge him to save their homes. While the residents were hoping for a positive reply, Mayor Sunil Prabhu said, “We have our sympathies with the residents, but the civic body cannot, in anyway, go against the order of the apex court.” The residents have also started a missed-call campaign to save their homes, in which people can give a missed call on the number and lend their support for Campa Cola.
“We want support from people to fight against the builder-authority nexus. We need to show the government that the middle class matters and they cannot be ignored,” said Devyani Jayakar, another resident. A senior advocate and former law minister of India, Shanti Bhushan, issued a statement in support of the residents. He said the fate of the residents was now the state’s responsibility. “While the Supreme Court judgment of February 2013, refusing to interfere with the non-regularisation of several flats in the Campa Cola society built by contravening the applicable legal provisions cannot be faulted in law in any manner, the case raises many important issues of constitutional importance. This will determine the state’s responsibility in such situations, which are likely to arise in a large number of similar matters across India.” he said.
He also said that if this situation had risen in 1977, when he was the law minister, he would have persuaded the Morarji Desai cabinet to immediately issue an ordinance to stay the eviction and the demolition, and provide for a committee to go into the question of whether the non-demolition of the flats would pose any danger to public interest.
“It is true that violation of law should not be encouraged, but there were many reasons why people, particularly poor, are compelled to become parties to various illegalities just to be able to survive in this country,” Bhushan added.