While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has stepped up action against unauthorised constructions and illegal alterations by commercial properties across the city, Opposition leaders in the civic body have said these establishments managed to get a stay on demolition from courts, and have blamed the BMC’s legal department for its allegedly “weak” representation. The Opposition leaders have alleged that the legal department had been delaying the submission of its replies and reports to courts.
After the Kamala Mills fire tragedy, in which 14 people died, the BMC had faced criticism from all corners for failing to act against illegal constructions and alterations across the city. The BMC subsequently initiated a mass demolition drive, and action was been taken against over 1,000 establishments for various irregularities. Over 3,000 restaurants were issued ‘inspection reports’ to comply with fire safety and other norms. Meanwhile, 1,965 illegally-stored LPG cylinders were seized too.
Meanwhile, the tragedy also threw the spotlight on the fact that the BMC was contesting thousands of cases, pertaining to unauthorised constructions, in courts. Of these, 3,847 cases had witnessed a stay being granted against demolition. The subject was debated at the weekly meeting of the civic body’s standing committee on Wednesday.
“In many cases, even courts have blamed the BMC’s legal team for the delay in filing their reply and submitting reports in the cases. The representation of the legal department against these unauthorised construction is weak and hence does not stand in court. Thus, the owners manage to get a stay. This shows that the civic legal department works in connivance with the owners of these commercial establishments,” said Manoj Kotak, a senior BJP corporator.
A senior official from the BMC’s legal department said, “It is true that many cases are pending in court and many have managed to get a stay against BMC action. However, we are working to get things on track. There had been no legal policy in the BMC. Following the Bombay high court’s directions, a policy was framed, under which a decision was taken by the civic body to bring 100 senior and experienced counsels on board. The decision was taken with an idea to reduce the huge pendency of cases.”