Submit a timeframe for the demolition of the nearly five lakh illegal structures in Thane district within a week, the Bombay High Court directed Chief Secretary Jagannath P. Dange on Thursday.
Expressing displeasure over the state government’s inaction in demolishing the illegal structures in Thane district, the division bench of acting Chief Justice J.N. Patel and Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari observed: “It is high time that the high-powered committee, headed by the chief secretary, is directed to remove all the encroachments from public land and unauthorised constructions.”
The high court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Harit Vasai Sanrakshan Samiti seeking to demolish illegal constructions in the Vasai-Virar belt.
The HC had earlier expanded the scope of the PIL to entire the Thane district.
The petitioner's lawyer, Uday Warunjikar, pointed out to the court that of the 4,95,483 unauthorised structures in the district, only 11,545 have been demolished despite several court orders.
Warunjikar said the government had promised to take several steps, such as setting up a civic police force within the municipal corporations, special police stations and special courts to deal with the menace of encroachments and illegal constructions, but none have seen the light of the day.
Irked by the inaction, the bench asked Ram Apte, who was appearing for the Thane Municipal Corporation, if action was taken against any of the civic officers.
“Fix responsibility and dismiss them. Dismissal is the only punishment in such cases,” said the judges.
Replying to the court query, the senior lawyer said departmental inquiries had been initiated against 28 civic officers.
In his affidavit, Dange said that in the light of recommendations of the BK Aagarwal Committee, the state government has proposed to fix a cut-off date for the regularisation of unauthorised constructions in Thane district.
The government also plans to bring in legal provisions for the criminal prosecution of ward officers responsible for allowing illegal constructions within their areas, the affidavit said.