MUMBAI: The Bombay high court has criticised the BMC for its approach towards illegal structures in the city.
“We get the impression that you are trying to help people putting up unauthorised constructions. You don’t take our orders seriously and go out and say this court is very harsh to officers of (BMC). When our orders are not followed, what do we expect to do?” said a bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla on Friday.
A petition was filed by the A H Wadia Trust regarding an illegal structure on its property in Kurla. In August 2020 the HC had directed that the site be inspected and appropriate action taken. The trust moved for contempt against the BMC alleging that no action was taken pursuant to the order.
The BMC’s advocate, Joel Carlos, said the site was inspected and second floor construction stopped and demolished. The judges said action ought to have been taken against the entire structure, and not only the second floor. They asked the executive engineer present whether he read the order and understood it. Carlos said the engineer was under the impression that it was an ongoing construction.
“It is unpardonable. You are senior-most in the hierarchy after the assistant (municipal) commissioner. Can you be heard to say this? After reading the order, you have not complied with it,” said Justice Kathawalla.
It was then that the judge observed that BMC was not taking the court’s orders seriously. “Simple English orders they don’t understand and don’t implement,” said Justice Kathawalla.
Carlos urged to permit action under section 351 (demolition) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act (also known as the BMC Act).
Justice Kathawalla pointed out that encroachers obtain an injunction from the civil court.
“You are giving them that handle… an opportunity to do what they have not done. Whole purpose of the order is lost,” he said.
Carlos said the trust owns large chunks of land in the Kurla-Kalina area. “Its managers give these properties on rent, issue rent receipts and then the trust expects the BMC to remove the encroachments,” the BMC’s advocate said. To that, Justice Kathawalla remarked, “We are not at all happy with the functioning of the Wadia Trust.”
The judges were inclined to initiate contempt action asking whether the executive engineer “will go to jail or pay fine?” They relented and accepted Carlos’s statement that the BMC will take action under section 351 “to its logical end”. The judges will pass a formal order.