After state’s lethargy, Bombay HC looks at port land for building its new complex
Realising that the redevelopment of Government Colony at Bandra - where the state government proposed to construct a new high court complex - is a distant dream, the Bombay high court on Thursday directed the central government to see if any Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) land in the city can be provided for the new high court complex in the city.
A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla has directed the union government to inform it by June 8, if any MbPT land can be made available for the new complex for the principal seat of the Bombay high court.
The directive came after the bench noted that the state government has not even prepared a master plan – showing precise part of the land where the state government intended to construct the new high court complex at Bandra.
Additional government pleader Geeta Shastri could only point out that the area abutting Western Express Highway has been earmarked for the new high court complex and that the government intends to provide approximately 26 lakh square feet constructed area for the high court complex, including 4.50 lakh square feet for residence of judges.
The judges were also skeptical about the state's plan as the government is looking for external funding for the redevelopment of the government colony. "If this is the approach of the government, for years we will be where we are today," said the bench.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Ahmad Abdi, complaining the lack of adequate space in the existing high court complex at Fort and seeking a direction to the government to allot adequate piece of land for the new high court complex in the city.
The PIL had been filed in 2012, at the backdrop that the existing high court building was constructed way back in 1878 to meet the requirement of only 15 judges. Now, the sanctioned strength of judges has increased to 94 and the existing building has only 29 court rooms, most of which are makeshift court rooms converted from office space, thus necessitating the creation of a new high court complex.
Acting on the PIL, the court had in August 2016 directed the government to prepare by December 2016 a master plan of the government colony at Bandra – as the government proposed to incorporate the construction of the new high court complex in the city within the redevelopment of the Government Colony – spread over 76 acres out of which some 6.02 acres abutting Western Express Highway was planned to be allotted for the construction of the new high court complex in the city.
After noticing the government has not complied with the August 2016 direction, the bench has now directed the chief secretary to file affidavit of compliance by June 8.