On the day of final deadline it had set for entering the Campa Cola compound, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) failed to begin phase one of its plan to raze the 35 illegal floors across seven buildings of the housing complex as residents resisted their efforts to enter the compound and carry out the Supreme Court-ordered demolition.
The civic body now plans to forcibly enter the compound along with strong police support on Saturday and disconnect the electricity and gas lines to the 96 illegal flats in the compound.
“We do not wish to use force. We would prefer to enter peacefully and carry out the SC order, but the residents refuse to allow this. We may have to use all means necessary on Saturday to ensure we follow our plan of action,” deputy municipal commissioner (Zone II) Anand Wagralkar said. “We do not wish to portray the BMC as helpless in this case. We will take police support and see to it that the plan is followed even if residents resist,” he added.
On Friday, the BMC team comprising 40 officials, including from the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport undertaking (BEST) and Mahanagar Gas Ltd, was not allowed to enter the compound despite two attempts as it was barricaded with new iron gates.
The residents folded their hands and started shouting slogans saying “we want justice” once the officials reached the premises. They were also supported by the Republican Party of India (RPI) and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers who shouted slogans supporting the residents. Some of these RPI workers were detained by the Worli police. Political leaders like Shaina NC, Arvind Sawant, Gopal Shetty and Mangal Prabhat Lodha also arrived at the compound to pledge their support for the residents. “We have always maintained that the residents are being targeted for no fault of theirs. We will still ask the state government to look into the matter and help the residents save their homes,” Sawant said.
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In a meeting with the secretaries of each of the seven buildings of the compound on Friday evening, Wagralkar warned them that they were already in contempt of the SC and that the BMC would file FIRs against them on Saturday if they continued to protest. The protesting residents will be booked under section 353 of the Indian Penal Code for obstructing government employees from performing their duties, he said.
“Our legal department has also already begun preparing the contempt petition to be filed in the apex court. We now also have our own video footage of the day’s events to show the court how the residents refused to let us enter the compound,” Wagralkar said. In this meeting, the chairman of Orchid building, one of the seven buildings in the compound, pleaded with the corporation to give him another 24-48 hours to reason with the rest of the residents.
“We understand the implications of our actions. I can take a decision for myself as the owner of my own flat, but I cannot decide for all the residents. We will try to talk to them but we need a little more time,” the chairman of Orchid building said. However, the civic body refused to oblige on the grounds that the residents had already been given extra time for the last 18 days since June 2 for a variety of reasons. Finally, the residents stood by their decision to resist the BMC in any future attempt to enter the compound.
Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court heard at length the arguments put forward by the residents of three buildings in the Campa Cola compound and the BMC in a dispute over the grant of deemed conveyance to the societies. While the BMC insisted it should be allowed to join as a party by the residents litigating to secure deemed conveyance, the residents contended that by seeking conveyance, they had only sought to transfer the promoter’s right to the societies and the corporation was not a necessary party.
Justice R M Sawant observed that the BMC was the owner of the land and said, “This is over-simplification. The deemed conveyance impacts the ownership rights of the corporation.”
The residents’ counsel sought time from the court to seek instructions. The court will hear the case on June 24.