Observing that residents of old buildings are often being “systematically” harassed by builders to vacate their flats, the Bombay High Court Tuesday said, “We are not amused by what is happening in the city of Mumbai.”
The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Rima Merchant, a resident of the 91-year-old Ram Mansion building, a Grade II-A heritage structure on Napeansea Road. Merchant, whose family occupies about 3,000 sq feet of the ground floor of the two-storey building, told the court that 80 per cent of the building had been taken over by Peninsula Developers and their subsidiary Top Value Builders and they were making it increasingly difficult for the Merchants to carry out any repairs within their premises.
“Residents of old buildings taken over by builders are being systematically harassed. This has to stop. Situations are created such that all tenants have to leave,” Justice V M Kanade said. Justices Kanade and A K Menon asked the state government and the Mumbai commissioner of police to be added as respondents in the case.
The case has been adjourned for one week.
As the counsel for the builders Prasad Dhakephalkar tried to put forth their contention, the court clarified, “We are not saying that it is so in this case. But we have seen (this happening) in many cases.”
Merchant’s petition alleged that despite availing cess, the builders had not carried out any waterproofing of the terrace or carried out any external plastering of the building in four years. “The water tank on the terrace is being allowed to overflow, wasting a lot of water and letting it damage the building,” Merchant argued.
Moreover, Merchant told the court, the builders had already advertised on their website that the Ram Mansion project would be completed by 2016. She said that while an eviction suit filed by the builders against the Merchants was pending before the Small Causes Court, the builder had represented to the public that they would be successful in ousting the petitioners from the premises. Such confidence, she argued, could come only from connivance with government agencies like the Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (MHADA).
“The builders are damaging and destroying the mansion from the portions thereof which are in their absolute possession. They are destroying the said structure from the roof and the top two storeys by intentionally damaging and destroying the same and inexplicably causing gross seepage of water therefrom into the said premises,” Merchant’s petition stated.
Merchant stated that the Mumbai board of repair and reconstruction had sent them a letter on February 11, the contents of which were “false, concocted and fictitious.” She said that as suggested by the letter, there was no need for propping inside the premises. “The ceilings are 17 ft high and the walls are 1.5 ft thick. As the mansion is of excellent construction quality, it has withstood the damage and destruction from the builders,” Merchant’s petition stated.