Bombay HC: It Will Be Difficult if Civic Bodies Don’t Take Action on Illegal Constructions

The Bombay High Court said on Wednesday that if the Municipal Corporations do not take action on the illegal constructions, things will become very difficult.

This observation was made by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice Girish Kulkarni while hearing a PIL after the Bhiwandi building collapse on September 21st, 2020 which led to the death of 39 lives. Mumbai Thane, Ulhasnagar, Kalyan-Dombivli, Vasai-Virar, Navi Mumbai, and Bhiwandi-Nizampur corporations were filed as respondents.

The Supreme Court noticed that the BMC did not state the number of unauthorized buildings in Mumbai and action taken against them. Looking at which, the Supreme Court said that if the BMC itself is not interested in implementing the provisions of the statute, the situation will become difficult. The Supreme court says KDMC seems more proactive as it demolished 10,000 structures over 5 years.

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When the chief justice asked about the figures the BMC replied that almost 40% of 421 Km of Mumbai were slums. There is data of extra floors being put up by the buildings but exact data is not available in the case of slums. He further says that detection is done through usual rounds when a complaint is received and there is a particular system to address these complaints.

Amicus Curiae Sharan Jagtiani observed that since there is an absence of data available regarding the illegal structures the officers have to be held accountable.

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The Judges referred to the Madras High Court Judgement that held that The illegal structures must pay double the tax till they are demolished. Justice Kulkarni said that a lot of measures can be taken but there is a lack of will from the corporation. He emphasized that the Bhiwandi building was an unauthorized one and the number of lives lost is not in proportion to the illegality and negligence of duty by the officers.

Justice Kulkarni said though pandemic has taught us a lot of things a migrant worker cannot be expected to check if the house is built well before moving in. With reference to the Bhiwandi building, the Justice said that it was home to migrants, it looked good in front of the Municipal authorities and then fell like a pack of cards.

The judges sought data of ward-wise notices sent to illegal structures, action taken and the accountability fixed. The hearing was adjourned to March 3rd, 2021


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