India

The Bombay High Court warns civic bodies in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region against building illegal structures

The Bombay High Court on Friday declared that it would initiate contempt actions towards Municipal Corporations and planning authorities across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) when they do not abide by speedily with its February 26 directives and conduct a monthly review of illegal structures or structures within every district and taking action against them.

The court, when hearing a PIL against structures that are not authorised in the Mumbra zone of Thane represented by lawyer Neeta Karnik also instructed the AMC Assistant (AMC) from the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to locate unauthorised structures within the vicinity and place notices on them, so that inhabitants are informed that their properties are part under the PIL and can go to the court for the hearing.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav J Jamdar was hearing a PIL filed by three Thane residents who sought the demolition of 9 “unauthorised” buildings in the Mumbra area in order to prevent the deaths during the case of an accident.

On the 13th of September the court told residents from two out of nine houses to demonstrate the law on which buildings that are not authorised can be ratified, and it would provide them with time to leave the building until they prove that the building is authorized.

The court stated it was in June that the court requested for the AMC of Thane to inform it of the actions undertaken by the corporation to comply with the directions issued in the February 26 ruling. The Coordinating Bench headed by CJ Datta has passed the verdict in suo motu PIL that was filed in September of 2020 following the collapse of a structure in Thane’s Bhiwandi incident, which killed 40 people.

The Court gave a number of directions to planners and civic bodies. The authorities responsible for planning were instructed to notify officials of the Urban Development Department (UDD) of illegal constructions within their areas and to conduct a review of the constructions in each ward during the final week of each month. This is followed by criminal actions against corrupt officials. The HC stated that in the event the building falls down, an investigation must be carried out within 15 days in order to determine the responsibility of officials.

The Municipal Commissioners were asked to create a procedure where designated officers for each district undertake an audit of structures that are notified as “ruinous” structures and vacate them, the court ruled. The court further stated that any corruption within civic institutions must be exposed by means of anti-graft mechanisms.

On Friday, the court granted intervention requests by a few residents, such as people living at Diamond Park and Farida Mansion who had asked the court to grant an opportunity to hear their pleas in opposition.

In allowing the parties for hearings in the PIL and allowing the intervenors to be heard, the bench directed the AMC to find other structures that are illegal in the area and inform them of the court proceedings. Seeking acceptance by civic institutions of the ruling of February 26 that was posted by the bench, it scheduled a further hearing in the PIL to be held on September 29.

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