The Bombay High Court on Friday said that it will issue contempt proceedings against Municipal Corporations and planning authorities across Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) if they do not comply expeditiously with its February 26 directions, including conducting a monthly review of illegal buildings or structures in every ward and action taken against them.
The court, while hearing a PIL against unauthorised structures in Mumbra area of Thane argued through advocate Neeta Karnik, also directed an Assistant Municipal Commissioner (AMC) of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to identify unauthorised structures in the locality and affix notice on them so that the occupants are made aware that their buildings are a subject of the PIL and they can approach the court and be granted hearing.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav J Jamdar was hearing a PIL by three Thane residents who had sought demolition of nine “unauthorised” buildings in Mumbra area to avoid loss of lives in the event of a mishap.
On September 13, the court had told the residents of two of the nine buildings to show the law based on which unauthorised building can be ratified and said that it was willing to give them time to vacate the premises unless they show that the building is authorised.
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The court said that in June, the bench had asked the AMC of Thane to inform it about the steps taken by the corporation in compliance with directions passed in the February 26 judgment. The coordinate bench led by CJ Datta had passed a verdict in a suo motu PIL initiated in September 2020 after the collapse of a building in Thane’s Bhiwandi, which had claimed 40 lives.
The Court had given a slew of directions to the civic bodies and planning authorities. The planning authorities were asked to inform the state Urban Development Department (UDD) about illegal constructions in their respective areas and to take review of such buildings in every ward in the last week of every month followed by criminal action against errant officials. The HC added that in case of building collapse, enquiry should be conducted within 15 days to determine responsibility of officials.
The Municipal Commissioners were asked to ensure a mechanism where designated officers of every ward conduct an audit of the notified “ruinous” structures and vacate them, the court said. The court added that corruption in civic bodies should be brought to book through anti-graft mechanisms.
On Friday, the bench allowed intervention applications by some of the residents, including those by residents of Diamond Park and Farida Mansion, who had urged the court to grant them a hearing opposing the plea.
While allowing the intervenors to be heard in the PIL, the bench asked the AMC to identify other illegal structures in locality and make them aware about the court proceedings.
Seeking compliance by civic bodies of the February 26 judgment, the bench posted further hearing in the PIL for September 29.