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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Regularising illegal buildings in Digha sets bad precedent: Bombay High Court

Asks state to take reconsider the policy and come up with a decision by next week.

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Published: January 15, 2016 12:35:16 am
The court is hearing two PILs that have claimed no proper action was taken against unauthorised structures despite complaints. (Express Archive) The court is hearing two PILs that have claimed no proper action was taken against unauthorised structures despite complaints. (Express Archive)

The Bombay High Court said Thursday a draft policy by the state government clearing the decks for regularisation of illegal buildings in Digha would have “disastrous consequences” and set an unhealthy precedent for other towns and cities in the state. The court asked the state to reconsider the policy and come up with a decision by next week.

The HC also asked whether the state had statutory powers to frame such a policy.

Pointing out that the policy should be a rational one, the HC said, “What signals will you be sending by such regularisation? We are not concerned with the political compulsions but are concerned with the process of law,” said Justice A S Oka. There are around 100 illegal buildings in Digha alone.

Justice A S Oka and Justice C V Bhadang were hearing two public interest litigations — one filed by Mayura Maru against illegal structures in Navi Mumbai and another by Rajiv Mishra seeking demolition of unauthorised structures in Digha area of the satellite township. The petitions claim that no proper action was taken against unauthorised structures despite complaints.

According to the court, while it could not interfere with the policies of the state, the policy would have to stand the test of Article 14 (Equality before Law) as such policies cause town planning schemes to collapse. “Many of these buildings have come up on Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) land. In one village (Digha), more than 90 such illegal structures have come up. The numbers are greater if we take all of Navi Mumbai into consideration. If you regularise buildings that came up on industrial estates, the purpose of having such estates will be frustrated,” added the bench.

The HC said such a policy would send out similar signals to other areas such as Pimpri-Chinchwad and Vasai, awaiting similar regulariation.

The bench also pointed out that while dealing with the rights of slum-dwellers to get residences in Mumbai, the court had said more than 4,000 policemen were staying in slums for want of affordable housing.

“The state should consider that in the present case the house buyers knew that the houses were illegal. In spite of earlier orders, the state does not seem to have gone to the root cause of the issue,” said Justice Oka.

The court said the state appeared to have been napping as the matter snowballed. “You cannot use the policy as a device to stop demolition. The state was aware of the orders and cannot come with a policy when demolition is in full swing,” Justice Oka added.

The court had recently directed the MIDC and the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Limited to initiate the process of demolition of 94 buildings in Digha village, which are illegally constructed on their land.

ruhi.bhasin@expressindia.com

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