Taking note of the rise in encroachments near the airport, the Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday asked the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to remove all recent illegal structures on airport land.
The division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice KR Shriram directed the development body to remove all illegal structures constructed after 2009, when the MMRDA was appointed as the special town planning authority for airport land.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL), seeking a direction to MMRDA to stop fresh encroachments on airport land, especially the vertical growth of existing slums as they pose a serious security threat to the airport.
The MMRDA had resisted the petition, contending that the MIAL was a private entity which has taken over the development and management of the city airport. Also, under an agreement between Airports Authority of India and MIAL, the latter was supposed to remove the encroachments on the area around the airport.
MMRDA’s counsel advocate Kiran Bagalia strongly opposed the petition, and said that, in the agreement, MIAL has agreed not to make government authorities liable even for the removal of encroachments on the airport land. She added that MIAL had in fact made arrangements with a private company for implementing project for rehabilitation of the slum dwellers with an intention of making the airport land encroachment free.
The judges, however, refused to accept the contention as they did not find any clause in the agreement between MIAL and the Central government, which prevented the private airport operator from calling upon public authorities to remove illegal constructions. The judges said the special planning authority was bound to take action against illegal constructions within its jurisdiction, and it cannot refuse to do so.
MIAL, which is entrusted with the task of modernising and operating the international airport for 30 years, had said the land available – 1,700 acres -- for Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport as such was not adequate and the problem of space crunch was multiplied by the fact that around 308 acres is encroached upon by squatters and unauthorised slums.