Observing that authorities like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) do not rule but govern the city, the Bombay High Court, hearing an appeal by a housing society questioning the civic body’s right to work within its premises, said when BMC undertakes public works “it does citizens no favours.”
Nilkanth Cooperative Housing Society in Borivli, along with another petitioner, had challenged in the High Court an order of the civil city court declining interim relief to them. They were initially directed by Justice A K Menon to make BMC a respondent.
The appeal was recently heard by Justice G S Patel. The civic body had issued a work order to a contractor who had started digging up the open space outside the society building which was used by the society members to park cars.
The work order issued by BMC on October 2016, included carrying out construction of a storm water drain and re-asphalting the surface roads.
The BMC in its reply in May 2017, claimed that a notice relating to this work was pasted on the society’s gates in April 2013.
“This in itself is astonishing. The BMC expects citizens to accept that a so-called notice given four years ago, merely pasted somewhere is one of which a citizen or a society will keep track. One never knows when the MCGM will finally commence the work. To put it mildly, the submission is unreasonable….. If a notice is given it must state a date by which that work is proposed to start and to be completed. It is equally impossible to accept that it takes four years for the BMC to implement work already planned, however, important,” said Justice G S Patel.
It was pointed out to the court that not all society plots have compound walls, and there may be a gate but at some distance away for the entire enclave. “The only point being made is that notices of this kind need not be pasted on some unspecified gate. There is no need to rely only on such pasting. The society is available. It is not going anywhere. It can always be given notice, and a proper acknowledgement obtained. This will obviate all controversy…. though I see no reason why notices from the BMC should be confined to pasting….The days for such antiquated notice-giving are long gone,” said the court.
The High Court said that since BMC says it is fully digitized and has “fine e-capabilities,” it should start using them and adjust its procedures to ones that are more contemporary.
“Such outmoded practices do not sit well with government-mandated initiatives for greater transparency and accountability,” noted the court.
Pointing out that the demand of the society was not unreasonable and that a proper notice should be sent and full information provided to them, the court added,“It cannot be that BMC does not feel obliged to respond”.
“This Court will not accept this high-handed attitude of the BMC or any other governing authority. If a citizen or a resident asks a question, he or she is entitled to receive the information. There are no exceptions. These authorities do not rule the city. They are delegated to govern it. It is high time they learnt the difference. When the BMC undertakes public works, it does citizens no favours. It is only fulfilling its duty. It must do so in a moderate manner with sufficient consideration for those it is appointed to serve, with minimal inconvenience and maximum efficiency, despatch, clarity and transparency,” said Justice Patel.
Taking note of the fact that the work in question had considerably progressed, he granted permission for it to be completed by July 14.