Bombay HC seeks details of levying penalty on illegal constructions in MMR
The Bombay high court (HC) last week directed all municipal corporations within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), to furnish details as regards statutory levying of penalties on illegal constructions.
The division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni has directed the civic bodies – BMC and municipal corporations for Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayander, Ulhasnagar and Bhiwandi-Nizampur – to furnish, by March 3, 2021, details of compliance of section 152A of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, and section 267A of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, both of which provide for levying annual penalty of an amount equal to twice the property tax leviable on the building, if the structure is unauthorised and constructed without necessary planning permission.
The court also directed the civic bodies to furnish ward-wise details of unauthorised constructions within their respective limits, with the break-up of completely illegal buildings –constructed without planning permissions, part-illegal structures – buildings with some illegal floors, and constructions with major deviations from sanctioned plans.
The civic bodies have also been directed to furnish details of actions taken by them against these three categories of illegal constructions.
The directives came on a suo-motu proceeding taken up after a dilapidated building collapsed in Bhiwandi on September 23, 2020, resulting in the loss of 16 lives, including eight children, prompting HC to take suo-motu note of dilapidated buildings and mushrooming of illegal constructions in MMR.
In its order, the bench observed, “There can be no two opinions that proper planning of the municipal areas can never be achieved if the persons, who by law are vested to govern the affairs of the corporation either by virtue of their employment or election as corporators, have no will to weed out such lawlessness of illegal constructions, dilapidated buildings and perpetration of encroachments.”
The bench said that there were ideal laws to administer and maintain cities with high standards of municipal governance, but the reasons why there is gross failure to achieve such goals and ideals, reflecting very poorly on the municipal administration, are not too far to be noticed.
“It can certainly be said that there is a failure of long-long years in preventing illegal constructions, encroachments and having such buildings as are dilapidated and which may lead to collapse, resulting in loss of innocent human lives,” the bench added.
The bench also questioned why municipal councillors besides civic officials, should also not be held accountable for the menace of illegal constructions and encroachments. The judges wondered as to why municipal councillors should not be held responsible and accountable on the principle that every public position a person holds is accompanied by duties, obligations and responsibilities.
“On every occasion, it cannot be that officers are to be held responsible for lawlessness and loss of human lives,” said the bench. “Any dereliction of such basic municipal duties by all stakeholders needs to be deprecated and recourse to the process of law, civil and criminal, is required to be taken to its logical conclusion in the event such illegalities are noticed,” the court added.