The Bombay High Court has issued a showcause notice to BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta and has asked him to be personally present in court on September 8. The court observed after the Bhendi Bazaar building collapse that the BMC had legally responded in a “callous manner” to cases, including those related to dilapidated buildings present in courts.
The HC on Friday observed that there were several cases of dilapidated buildings pending before it, owing to a delay by the BMC in filing its replies in such matters. The court stated that the possibility of one of these buildings collapsing, leading to further casualties, could not be ruled out.
The court also issued a showcause against the commissioner as to why no action should be taken against him for defending legal matters in the “most callous and casual manner”. These directions were issued by a division bench of Justice B R Gavai and Justice M S Karnik.
“We see that the corporation is being defended in a most callous and casual manner. We have seen that on account of the building collapse, which was in a dilapidated condition, dozens of people have died and dozens are seriously injured,” stated the court.
The bench added that it came across various matters pertaining to buildings in a dilapidated condition in which matters could not be decided on account of the BMC not filing its reply in time.
“In some matters this court has granted protection, though on an undertaking from the occupiers that they shall occupy at their own risk. Possibility cannot be ruled out that a building, which is a subject matter of the petition in this court and wherein an interim protection is granted, may collapse leading to further casualties. Such matters cannot be decided only because of the BMC’s casual approach in not filing a reply promptly,” said Justice Gavai
The court held that due to the inordinate delay by the civic body in filing replies, matters had been pending for years and “though several adjournments are sought, replies are not filed”.
“We had also noted that though the corporation engages senior counsels to defend petty matters, the matters which concern interpretation of statutory provisions and the orders passed in such matters would eventually have a bearing on the fate of a number of buildings, are left to be defended by the lawyers who are employees of the corporation,” observed the court.
The court had on an earlier date passed an order seeking a response from the commissioner on all these aspects. “We had expected that at least after that order, there would be an improvement in the functioning of the law department of the corporation. However, we are surprised to see that even after passing of that order, the situation remains the same,” said the bench.
“We therefore direct the Municipal Commissioner of Greater Mumbai to personally remain present in the court on September 8 and show cause as to why an action should not be taken against him for defending legal matters in a casual manner,” said the court.