You are encouraging sheer lawlessness, the Bombay high court told the Maharashtra government on Monday, as it noticed that more illegal constructions had come up in Navi Mumbai after the government proposed a policy of regularising unauthorised constructions en-masse.
“This is sheer lawlessness that you are encouraging,” the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Anuja Prabhudessai told government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani, while hearing on two public interest litigations (PILs) raising concern about rampant illegal constructions in Navi Mumbai.
“If all the planning authorities have the power to regularise certain unauthorised structures, why this policy,” the bench said. “Everybody gets a license to put up illegal constructions in view of such a policy. You are raising hopes. People know that if it is December 2015 [cut-off date] today, tomorrow it will be 2016 and then 2017.”
The court’s comments came after advocate Datta Mane, counsel for one of the petitioners, pointed out that information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that after 30 July, 2015, 303 illegal buildings – without any permission from any authority – have been constructed or are being constructed in Navi Mumbai in areas for which CIDCO is the planning authority.
The judges were irked to note that two illegal buildings demolished by the MIDC, under high court orders, have been reconstructed and now the flats therein have also been occupied, and after January 1, 2016, about 130 unauthorized buildings have been constructed within Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) jurisdiction.
The bench slammed the government for failing to implement the May 20, 2015, state cabinet decision to create 106 new posts of police personnel and make them available to the NMMC for providing protection in preventing and demolishing illegal constructions. Advocate Sandip Marne, who represented NMMC, pointed out that the cabinet decision has not yet been implemented and its requests for police protection to the demolition squad was fulfilled only 21 times out of 98 total requests.
The PILs are filed by local residents, Rajesh Mishra and advocate Mayura Maru, complaining about rampant illegal constructions in Navi Mumbai, the twin city specially developed by acquiring lands of locals for meeting the increasing demand of housing, office and commercial space in the financial capital of the country.
Acting on the PILs, on July 30, 2015, the court ordered CIDCO, NMMC and the MIDC to form special squads to identify and take action of demolition of all illegal constructions within their respective areas. It was only after the authorities began pulling down illegal buildings, primarily encroachments made on CIDCO and MIDC lands, the state government came out with a policy to protect and regularise unauthorised constructions across the state.
But, on April 26, 2016, the high court scrapped the policy terming it completely arbitrary. Thereafter, in July 2016, the state government has come out with another policy and sought the court’s nod for the same. Now, the matter will come up on February 22, when the court is likely to hear arguments on the state’s plea seeking approval to its second policy.