The Bombay high court on Friday observed that unauthorised construction is rampant and if the state government is serious about the issue, they should take action. The high court noted that even four years after a decision was taken by the state, little has been done to clamp down on encroachments and illegal construction.
An affidavit filed in the Bombay high court by state deputy secretary Prabhakar Pawar stated that the government has taken a decision to establish a special police cell for registering and investigating municipal offences. But the court noted that this has been in the pipeline since 2009, as earlier affidavits filed by the government in 2009 and 2010 had made similar claims.
The affidavit was filed following the court’s direction on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Harit Vasai Sanrakshan Samiti, which raised concerns over thousands of illegal structures and encroachments in the Vasai-Virar belt. The court had expanded the scope of the petition to the entire Thane district.
In the affidavit, Pawar admitted there are a large number of encroachments at the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) land and on forest land in Thane district, and said the authorities have been asked to curtail them. The affidavit states that the state government has decided to clamp down on encroachments and unauthorised constructions by arming the civic bodies with a dedicated police force. Special courts will also be set up to try municipal offences to fast-track the judicial process.
On Friday, the MIDC said that the proposal for a dedicated force to combat the menace has been pending for four years.
A division bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud has now directed the state chief secretary to take steps to formulate and implement a comprehensive policy before the next hearing on July 26, and has directed CIDCO and MIDC and the forest department to submit a time schedule for implementing the same.
According to the petitioner’s advocate Uday Warunjikar, over 6,000 illegal constructions have come up in the last 20 months. “According to figures submitted by the state in August 2011, the number was over 94,000 and the current figure taken in May this year shows the number has gone over one lakh,” Warunjikar said.