The Bombay High Court on Wednesday took the BMC to task for failure to check encroachments on water pipelines. “There is no fundamental right of people to encroach,” said Justice J.N. Patel. “You (BMC) allow people to encroach and then regularise these slums.”
A division bench of Justice Patel and Justice V.K. Tahilramani was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Janhit Manch, a non-governmental organisation, seeking the removal of slums perched or leaning on water pipelines.
The PIL made the point that not only were such encroachments responsible for water loss but also for contamination of water, not to mention loss of revenue to the corporation.
Hydraulic engineer S.S. Korlekar, who appeared before the court after Justice Patel summoned him in the morning, said an initial survey of encroachments on water pipelines had been completed.
“There are over 15,000-odd slums on these pipelines, of which 6,573 are eligible (to stay put) as they are existing since prior to 1995,” said BMC counsel K.K. Singhvi.
Unhappy about a government plan to stretch the cut-off date for regularisation of slums in the city from January 1, 1995 to January 1, 2000, Justice Patel remarked: “Why should there be any deadline? Government should say it is open for all. Anyways, these people get all the facilities free of cost.”
Asking the BMC not to regularise these slums, Justice Patel said these would only further encourage people to encroach on public property.
“There should not be slum rehabilitation schemes as this would only encourage further encroachment,” said Justice Patel.
Weary of receiving PILs challenging irregular structures, Justice Patel said: “Don’t treat us (high court) as scavengers. Are we suppose (sic) to remove all the ills of the society?”
The court was also irked by the statement by the BMC counsel that the authorities “clear the slums but they come back again”.
“Your argument is not acceptable. Encroachments are like cancer and the corporation has to curb them,” said Justice Patel.