Jai Bhim Nagar demolitions: HC seeks answers on demolitions during monsoon | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Jai Bhim Nagar demolitions: HC seeks answers on demolitions during monsoon

BySahyaja MS
Jul 10, 2024 08:36 AM IST

The court’s directive came during the hearing of a petition filed by 28 slum dwellers from Jai Bhim Nagar. These residents, represented by advocate Rakesh Singh, sought compensation and prosecution of civic officials for the demolitions

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to explain the demolition of 650 hutments in Powai’s Jai Bhim Nagar on June 6, as the action seemingly contravened a government resolution prohibiting demolitions during the monsoon months spanning June to September.

Mumbai, India - June 6, 2024: A few policemen from Powai police station injured in stone pelting when they went to assist the BMC officials during an anti-encroachment drive in Powai at Jai Bhim Nagar in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Mumbai, India - June 6, 2024: A few policemen from Powai police station injured in stone pelting when they went to assist the BMC officials during an anti-encroachment drive in Powai at Jai Bhim Nagar in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

The court’s directive came during the hearing of a petition filed by 28 slum dwellers from Jai Bhim Nagar. These residents, represented by advocate Rakesh Singh, sought compensation and prosecution of civic officials for the demolitions. They claim they have been living in the area for over 30 years and possess legal documents such as Aadhaar, ration cards, electricity bills, and gas connections to validate their residency.

A bench comprising justices Revati Mohite Dere and Shyam C Chandak specifically instructed the public prosecutor Hiten Venegaokar to look into the issue. “Take instructions on why it was done and if there is prima facie something amiss, we will look into it,” the court said.

The dispute arose when a prominent developer sought to acquire the land in Powai and offered the residents permanent alternate accommodation in Mahatma Phule Nagar. The residents, with deep roots in their community, demanded relocation in the same area. The builder’s attempt to evict them through the courts was dismissed, and the ruling was not contested, making it final.

In 2017, the builder allegedly manipulated the situation to secure an eviction notice from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) under section 152 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) Act. Despite the residents’ legal documents confirming their long-term residence, this notice was issued. The situation escalated when a complaint was filed with the State Human Rights Commission, leading to hearings where the BMC and the district collector affirmed the existence of the hutments for a long time.

On June 3, 2024, the BMC announced its plan to demolish tenements in Jai Bhim Nagar, posting notices on a public toilet and water tank in the area, although residents argued that this did not meet the legal requirements. On June 5, several residents were summoned to the Powai police station, where they were allegedly threatened with forceful eviction.

On June 6, a peaceful protest by residents was met with a large police presence. The protest turned violent as police reportedly assaulted demonstrators, including women and children. The demolition began soon after and lasted until 10:30pm, destroying residents’ homes and belongings. Many sustained injuries and were not allowed to retrieve personal items such as utensils, cash, jewellery, important documents, and school materials.

The slum dwellers have now moved the high court, demanding immediate registration of an FIR against police personnel and BMC officials for offences including assault, illegal eviction, and violation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. They also seek the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a retired judge to investigate the matter in a time-bound manner and initiation of departmental action against the erring officials.

Additionally, the residents seek reconstruction of their demolished hutments at the original site at BMC’s expense, along with compensation for their losses and suffering. Despite multiple complaints to various authorities, including the commissioner of police and the deputy commissioner of police, no action has been taken, prompting the residents to turn to the court. They also report ongoing harassment by goons allegedly sent by the builder, further exacerbating their plight.

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