The Bombay High Court pulled up the Maharashtra government for not effectively implementing provisions of the Disaster Management Act and directed it to take effective steps to set up the District Disaster Management Authority in Mumbai expeditiously.
A division bench of Justices A S Oka and M S Sonak directed the government to set up the authority in Mumbai and suburban Mumbai by January 31.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Sanjay Lakhe Patil, president of NGO ‘Marathwada Anushesh Nirmulan Aani Vikas Manch’, on the issue of drought faced by farmers in parts of the state every year due to deficient rainfall.
The petition sought direction to the government to implement the Disaster Management Act 2005 and also sought to know the measures taken by it for drought mitigation.
The DMA, a central legislation, provides for effective management for disasters, both natural and man-made.
The bench on Friday in its order noted that while the government had earlier claimed that the District Disaster Management Authorities were constituted in all districts, it later admitted that such authorities are yet to be constituted in the districts of Mumbai and suburban Mumbai.
“It is common knowledge that Mumbai and suburban Mumbai are prone to severe significant disasters both natural and man-made. Flooding during the monsoons is a perennial disaster in respect of which no effective steps appear to have been taken under the framework of the DMA,” it said.
There were issues of collapse of dilapidated buildings, bridges and so on which were a common occurrence in the districts of Mumbai and suburban Mumbai, the bench noted.
“The population pressure is of such high density that serious measures under the DMA are an absolute imperative, if, disasters in the happening are to be tackled with some degree or seriousness under the statutory framework of DMA.
“For a period of twelve years since the DMA has entered into force, we find that there is no District Disaster Management Authority even constituted for the districts of Mumbai and suburban Mumbai,” the bench said.
On the issue of drought, the court directed the State Disaster Management Authority and the State Executive Committee to undertake the exercise of reviewing and updating the State Disaster Management Plan particularly in the matter of tackling “drought” or “drought-like” situation in the state in three months.
“We are constrained to observe that the government has done nothing but payment of some lip service to tackle the issue of drought in all seriousness by applying the statutory framework of the DMA,” the court observed.
The court also directed the state government to frame rules as contemplated under the DMA within a period of three months.
The bench noted that the act was enacted in 2005 and since then the state government had not framed rules to carry out its provisions.
“Although, the state government constituted the State Disaster Management Authority in 2006, it is obvious that the same is not fully functional, inter alia, on account of the absence of rules,” the court said.
The bench has directed the state government to file a compliance report and posted the matter for hearing on February 16.