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Friday, January 22, 2021

Bombay HC pulls up civic bodies, says ‘there is no will’

The bench was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation it had initiated last September after the collapse of a building in Thane's Bhiwandi, which claimed nearly 40 lives.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai | January 14, 2021 3:02:22 am
Bombay hc, maharashtra gram panchayat elections, maharashtra rural polls, indian express newsThe court, however, held that such a petition could not be entertained in view of “clearly” applicable Article 243-O (b) of the Constitution. (File)

The Bombay High Court, while raising concerns about illegal structures and building collapses causing loss of lives, said on Wednesday that if municipal corporations are not in position to take action against unauthorised structures, “the situation will become quite difficult” in cities.

A division bench of Chief Justice (CJ) Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni sought ward-wise data from eight municipal corporations in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, including BMC, pertaining to notices issued against unauthorised structures, steps taken against them, number of cases in which compensation was recovered and cases related to illegal structures under litigation.

It also asked the state government to consider if separate tribunal can be formed to expedite hearings on pending litigations related to illegal structures.

The bench was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation it had initiated last September after the collapse of a building in Thane’s Bhiwandi, which claimed nearly 40 lives.

Senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani, who was appointed by the HC as amicus curiae to assist it with the case, said that several corporations, including BMC, had not mentioned the total number of unauthorised structures and steps taken against them in their replies.

“If corporations are not in a position of implementing the provisions of the statute, the situation is going to become quite difficult,” CJ Datta said. The bench also observed that most corporations do not seem proactive in taking action against illegal structures.

When CJ Datta inquired with BMC’s counsel why data about illegal structures was missing in its affidavit, senior counsel Anil Sakhare said that 40 per cent of the city’s land is occupied by slums and exact figures pertaining to buildings that had unauthorised floors may not be available.

Justice Kulkarni referred to a Madras High Court order, which had told authorities that till the time a illegal structure is demolished, the person putting it up may pay extra tax. “So many measures can be taken. There is no will and what are they (corporations) waiting for? They do not know. We are heading for what God knows…,” he added.

“The pandemic has taught us many things. Does every person, including migrants, who come to work in Mumbai need to check if building/structure has permissions and is safe? Human life cannot be cheap,” Justice Kulkarni said.

The bench the posted for further hearing in March first week.

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