THE SUPREME Court on Thursday granted tenants and occupants of the Esplanade Mansion time till May 30 to vacate the building.
Some tenants had approached the apex court by filing a Special Leave Petition appealing against the Bombay High Court order that directed them to vacate the premises by May 15.
Lawyer Rajesh Singh, one of the advocates representing the tenants and a tenant of the building himself, said the SC had granted the liberty to them to approach the High Court again to seek any further relief.
Singh said they were likely to decide whether to approach the HC’s vacation bench for a further extension. The tenants submitted before the SC that the HC, in its order, has directed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to chalk out an entire programme for repairing the structure in phases. The tenants said, in that case, the premises could be vacated in a phase-wise manner and not at once.
On April 4, the HC had directed Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and MHADA, with assistance from police, to ensure each occupant vacated the structure by May 15 following which the development authority sent a notice to the occupants.
The tenants and occupants are now looking for alternate accommodation. “We have not been informed how much time MHADA will take to repair the building. It is difficult to plan to rent any property without knowing how much time it will take. We know most of our customers in this area, so we are looking for alternate properties nearby from Fort to Colaba but the rent is too much,” said Bharatbhai Nagarseth, who is a tenant along with his brothers, of a shop called Smart & Hollywood, a tailoring store and ready-made garments shop, one of the oldest in the city.
Others, including tenant Arvind Nandu, who runs a photocopy shop at the entrance of the building, said he was hopeful of some relief from the court.
“If we are asked to vacate, since we are a commercial property, we will not be rehabilitated according to MHADA rules. This means a loss of livelihood for me and my employees till repairs are done. Our shop is located near the sessions court and we rely on this proximity for our business. I began looking for rented premises nearby but knowing our urgent need, many are quoting a high rent,” Nandu said.