Bombay HC warns commissioners of being called to court for not complying with orders
The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday pulled up the state and the eight municipal corporations that have failed to comply with the directions of the court to file affidavits regarding the illegal constructions in their jurisdiction and the action taken against them since the suo moto public interest litigation (PIL) was initiated by the HC last year.
The court warned that it would be constrained to call all the municipal commissioners to court if their officials failed to comply with the HC directions and also chided the state for not setting up a special cell as per court directions, to oversee the issue of illegal constructions. Only two corporations have filed affidavits till now despite the court asking them to do so in October last year and January this year.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing the suo-moto PIL was initiated after a dilapidated building collapsed in Bhiwandi on September 23, 2020, was informed by senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani, amicus curiae that only the state government and the BMC and Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation had complied with its January 13 order.
The court had directed the eight corporations which included BMC and municipal corporations for Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayander, Ulhasnagar and Bhiwandi-Nizampur, to furnish details of compliance of section 152A of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, and section 267A of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act, 1949 which pertained to of providing ward wise data of notices issued against unauthorised structures, steps taken against them, cases in which penalties were recovered and cases related to illegal structures under litigation.
After hearing this an exasperated bench said, “Are you not able to gather data? What does this infer? Municipal commissioners from all corporations need to be made accountable if they are not following provisions of law and asking their officers to take action. Why this lawlessness?”
The court then directed the advocates for the respective corporations to assist the commissioners and warned, “If you do not, we will call the commissioners next to court and make them answer. We do not want lip service. In January, we had passed an order and there was no compliance. It shows commissioners have not followed it.”
The bench noted that during the lockdown period large scale illegal constructions had taken place and the state had failed to keep a check on it as it did not constitute a supervisory cell as directed by the court earlier.
Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state however submitted that the state was taking the help of geo-mapping experts to identify illegal and unauthorized constructions as well as curb them.
The bench then chided the authorities for allowing illegal constructions to come up and then regularizing them without having scant regard for the process of law and said, “Violation is so rampant that even within two months, you (civic bodies) could not collect data.”
The court then directed the government and civic bodies to file detailed affidavits by March 31 and posted a hearing of the PIL on April 7.