Mumbai: Bombay HC Rebukes Civic Agencies Over Inaction Against Illegal Buildings

Mumbai: Bombay HC Rebukes Civic Agencies Over Inaction Against Illegal Buildings

Commenting on the illegal buildings and structure collapses that have resulted in the loss of life, the Bombay High Court said that “the situation will become quite difficult” in cities if corporations didn’t take up the responsibility of tackling these structures.

The division bench with Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni asked for ward-wise information from eight municipal corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) as well as the BMC. The bench is seeking data on notices issued to unauthorized buildings, the steps that were taken after, along with information on cases that are under litigation and cases wherein compensation was recovered by the agency. 

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Further, the bench also asked the State Government to think about establishing a separate tribunal to speed up hearings on existing cases pertaining to illegal buildings. 

These developments came as the bench was hearing a Suo Motu public interest litigation (PIL) initiated in September last year following the collapse of a building in Bhiwandi (Thane) resulting in the death of 40 people. 

Senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani was appointed as amicus curiae by the High Court to help with this case. He said that multiple municipal corporations, as well as the BMC, did not mention the number of unauthorized structures nor did they detail the steps initiated against the offenders.

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In response, senior counsel representing the BMC, Anil Sakhare said that 40% of Mumbai’s land belongs to the slum areas, suggesting that it may not be possible to get the exact figures on buildings that have unauthorized floors.  

“If corporations are not in a position of implementing the provisions of the statute, the situation is going to become quite difficult,” Chief Justice Dipankar Datta observed. The bench also recognized that most corporations are lacking enthusiasm in prosecuting people with illegal structures.

“The pandemic has taught us many things. Does every person, including migrants, who come to work in Mumbai need to check if building/structure has permissions and is safe? Human life cannot be cheap,” Justice Kulkarni said in his rebuke of the civic body. Further hearings on the matter have been scheduled for the first week of March.  

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