HC directs demolition of dilapidated widows’ home in SoBo

Published on Aug 15, 2022 10:13 PM IST

The Bombay high court (HC) recently directed the demolition of a building in Thakurdwar in South Mumbai, which was home to widows until 2019

The court was also informed that as the plot was abutting the proposed Metro line, demolition of the building would render them without a source of earning and they were also apprehensive that the trust might not reconstruct the building after demolition, hence they proposed repairing it (Bhushan Koyande)
The court was also informed that as the plot was abutting the proposed Metro line, demolition of the building would render them without a source of earning and they were also apprehensive that the trust might not reconstruct the building after demolition, hence they proposed repairing it (Bhushan Koyande)
ByK A Y Dodhiya

Mumbai The Bombay high court (HC) recently directed the demolition of a building in Thakurdwar in South Mumbai, which was home to widows until 2019.

The court made the decision after it was informed by the building owners and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that the load-bearing structure was more than 100 years old and had developed cracks.

The court dismissed the petition filed by the five tenants who had shops on the ground floor of the building, challenging the order of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of BMC to declare the structure dilapidated and dangerous, allegedly without conducting the requisite Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) which consists of seven tests to ascertain whether the building needs to be pulled down.

However, the court relied upon the findings of the TAC which had referred to the two structural audit reports undertaken by the tenants as well as the landlord and after a visual inspection of the structure had concluded that the building was in a dangerous and dilapidated condition.

The division bench of justice RD Dhanuka and justice Kamal Khata, while hearing two petitions filed by the tenants, was informed by advocates Karl Tamboly and Anoshak Daver that the petitions challenged the BMC notice issued to the occupants to vacate the premise within 30 days in April this year. The advocates had argued that the civic officers had not followed the prescribed format to reach the conclusion that the building was dilapidated.

The petitioners relied upon the structural audit report of 2021 which they had got done and told the court that as the report stated that the building fell in the C-2B category, the same could be repaired and there was no need to demolish the building. The court was also told that as the ground floor structure was not in a dilapidated condition, the BMC should only demolish the above floors.

The court was also informed that as the plot was abutting the proposed Metro line, demolition of the building would render them without a source of earning and they were also apprehensive that the trust might not reconstruct the building after demolition, hence they proposed repairing it.

However, advocate Ashish Kamath for the Nesserwanjee Manockjee Petit Charity Fund Trust, which is the landlord of the building and operated the “HM Petit Widows Homes” submitted that the building had been in a dilapidated condition for the past few years. Hence, the widows who occupied the floors above had been shifted to an alternate premise in 2019 itself. Kamath further submitted that the structural audit report undertaken by them in 2020 had stated that the structure was in a dilapidated condition and fell under the C-1 category and hence needed to be demolished.

On its part, the BMC through advocate Oorja Dhond submitted that the TAC had seen both the structural audit reports, undertaken a visual inspection of the structure and found cracks in the load-bearing structure. She further submitted that TAC had also observed major cracks in the walls and vegetation growth on the top floors and the wooden beams deteriorated. The structure had been propped up with steel columns and beams in the past and hence is based on these observations the TAC did not require to conduct the NDT to reach the conclusion that the building was in a dilapidated condition and needed to be demolished.

After hearing the submissions, the bench noted, “In our view, the TAC rightly formed an opinion. We are not inclined to form a different opinion than the opinion formed by the TAC which opinion is after considering the structural audit report submitted by both the parties, after visual inspection of the building and after considering the various other material produced on record and considered in the impugned order.”

“The apprehension of the petitioners is without any basis. The remedies of the petitioners or occupants insofar as their claim of tenancy or occupancy, it is protected in view of Section 354(5) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act and also under the provisions of Maharashtra Rent Control Act,” noted the court in its order and directed the petitioners to vacate and hand over possession of the premises to within three weeks.

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