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‘Book slumlords, not dwellers’

Irked at the slow pace of demolition of illegal construction, the Bombay High Court asked the government to explain why it was not using the state’s relevant Act against the city’s slumlords

mumbai Updated: Feb 04, 2010 01:36 IST
HT Correspondent

Irked at the slow pace of demolition of illegal construction, the Bombay High Court asked the government to explain why it was not using the state’s relevant Act against the city’s slumlords.

The court was referring to the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords, Bootleggers, Drug Offenders and Dangerous Persons Act (MPDA). The court also suggested disciplinary action against the CEO, municipal commissioner, collector or the highest authority in whose area the illegal construction has come up.

A division bench of Justice J N Patel and Justice B R Gavai was hearing a PIL seeking demolition of unauthorised structures in Thane district. The HC asked the state to specify the number of people identified as having allowed or carried out illegal construction and encroachment on public land.

“There is a mushrooming of unauthorised construction. Why has the government not identified the people involved, and taken action against them under the MPDA?” said Justice Patel.

Referring to the misuse of MPDA, he said: “The slum Act is now used as a weapon by politicians to seek votes. These encroachments are nothing but vote banks, to curb them you need political motivation.”

He said the MPDA must be applied to slum mafias, not slumdwellers. On a lighter note, he suggested that if the state has a single district with no illegal construction, they would award the highest officer of the area a “Maharashtra Bhushan”.

Additional Government Plea-der SR Nargolkar said the state has completed a survey of 70 per cent of the structures, and the rest will be finished by March.

Earlier, a state-appointed committee recommended the creation of a special police station to register and investigate complaints of encroachments and unauthorised construction, and special courts to try these cases.

An affidavit filed by Jagannath Dange, chief secretary, on Thursday said this proposal is under active consideration by the government.

Uday Warunjikar, advocate for the petitioners, said an earlier affidavit filed by the state in June 2009, had said the proposal was under consideration. “After seven months, they (state) are making the same statement,” he said.

Thane district has over 2.3 lakh illegal structures. Since 2003, the state has demolished around 16,000 of them.

An affidavit filed by MHADA says in two weeks, it will name a senior officer to fix responsibility on officials who were in charge of these layouts.

In 12 weeks, the officer will submit a report, after which disciplinary action will begin against those officials.