On Wednesday, the Bombay High Court pulled up the Maharashtra Government and eight municipal corporations in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) for failing to comply with its directions to file affidavits regarding actions taken against illegal constructions.
The Court warned that it would be constrained to call all municipal commissioners to court if their officials failed to comply with its directions and also chided the state for not setting up a special cell as per its directions to oversee the issue of illegal constructions.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation it had initiated last September after the collapse of a building in Thane’s Bhiwandi, which claimed nearly 40 lives.
The court on January 13 had sought ward-wise data from the eight corporations, including BMC, pertaining to notices issued against unauthorised structures, steps taken against them, number of cases in which compensation was recovered and cases related to illegal structures under litigation. On Wednesday, senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani, who was appointed as amicus curiae by the HC to assist it with the case, informed the court that so far, only the state government, the BMC and the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation have filed affidavits in reply. He added that the affidavits provided were unsatisfactory and the government has not fully answered the questions framed by the court.
The court pulled up authorities for not providing data on the number of constructions that have come up without permissions. “Are you not able to gather data? What does this infer? Municipal commissioners from all corporations need to be made accountable if they are not following provisions of law and asking their officers to take action. Why this lawlessness?” the bench said.
The HC asked the lawyers to examine the affidavits compiled by the authorities before submitting them to the bench. It told the lawyers, “If you do not, we will call the commissioners next to court and make them answer. We do not want lip service. In
January, we had passed an order and there was no compliance. It shows commissioners have not followed it.”
The bench also said that during lockdown, there were brazen illegal constructions and the state has failed to constitute a supervisory cell to keep check on them. “The picture would have been had this cell been there. But there is no will on part of the state.” Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state, said that the government has asked experts from Hyderabad to assist it on geo-mapping of illegal constructions and steps are being taken to curb unauthorised constructions.