The Bombay high court on Wednesday ordered the partial demolition of a private residential building near the international airport’s runway and pulled up both the Airports Authority of India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for not doing enough to ensure safety of air passengers and citizens living around the airport.
A bench of justice VM Kanade and justice MS Sonak, while hearing petitions on buildings violating height regulations around the airport, directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to register an FIR against the developer of the building within 48 hours and begin its demolition. It also issued notices to the Director General, DGCA and the chairperson, AAI.
The building was a redevelopment project by SAILEE Developers Pvt Ltd and is currently occupied by some tenants and owners. It has been built close to the runway and overshoots the permissible height limit — the DGCA allowed construction up to 13.9 metres, but the building is 24.7 metres high. It came to light in court that the developer managed to get the requisite permissions to build on the ‘approach surface’ by tweaking facts.
When the AAI issued the developer a notice, he got an order from the HC staying consequent demolition. The bench, however, vacated the stay order on Wednesday and paved the way for demolition.
The BMC has been directed to demolish all floors that violate the height norms.The bench’s directions came while it was hearing two petitions on such building height violations around the airport and the Juhu aerodrome.
The bench has now asked AAI and DGCA to conduct an immediate internal inquiry into action taken in the past year over navigation issues faced by aircraft casued by unauthorised construction.
“You are waiting for accidents to happen. You can never take preventive action. Look at what happened in Mahad. The state has woken up only now to the need to survey all old bridges,” the bench said. “It seems passenger safety is of no priority to you,” the bench said.The DGCA and the AAI have two weeks to file replies on why they failed to implement the HC’s previous order and to appoint an International Civil Aviation Organisation expert respectively.
The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), meanwhile, informed the court it routinely issues notices in case of height violations, but has no power to carry out demolitions. MIAL said it had issued more than 150 show cause notices to private developers over height regulations in 2012, but the BMC and AAI were yet to start demolition or any other punitive action.
AAI, in turn, argued the powers for demolition belong to the DGCA and the collectors.
“We are only interested in the action taken. All parties must follow procedures and ensure all illegal construction around the airport and the aerodrome is immediately demolished,” the bench said.