The Bombay High Court has taken the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to task for pointing at other authorities for undertaking demolition of unauthorised structures when it is indisputably the civic body’s job. The court was acting on a writ petition filed by a Kandivli school that received warnings from the fire department that the construction would prevent access in case of emergencies.
Danger to 6,000 kids
The petition was filed by Raghuvir Madhyamik Vidyalaya from Hanuman Nagar, Kandivli. The approach to the Kandivli school is surrounded by slums on all sides. The only access is via a road connected to Ambedkar Road, off Aakurli road.
In October 2009, an unauthorised construction comprising several metal girders was put up in front of the school’s main gate by local slumlords. Despite repeated complaints to the BMC by the school’s principal, no action was taken. Replying to one of the complaints sent by the school, the fire brigade had observed, “The only accessible entrance/exit gate of the school for fire engine and emergency vehicles is on the north side, however the approach road leading to this gate is obstructed by unauthorised construction.”
The department also remarked that the construction was ‘highly objectionable’ from the fire-fighting and safety point of view. It recommended demolition of the unauthorised constructions by the local Building Department Assistant Municipal Commissioner.
BMC points fingers
Frustrated with BMC’s inaction, the school approached the High Court through their lawyers Raju Moray and Sagar Rane. On January 23, the court ordered the planning authority to take an appropriate decision in the matter. In a meeting convened by the BMC on February 6, the civic body concluded that it was actually MHADA and the Collector’s responsibility to clear the structures.
Hauling the BMC up for its attitude, the division bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and KK Tated on February 22 said, “We hope and trust that the grievance made by the petitioner receives attention at the highest level in the Corporation. We are inclined to make this observation as we find that the Assistant Municipal Commissioner is of the opinion that he cannot initiate any action in the matter which, in our opinion, is preposterous.”
The court added that the BMC could not ‘absolve’ itself of its responsibilities and noted, “We are appalled to hear from the Corporation that the matter regarding unauthorised structures and encroachments will have to be redressed by the Collector, even though the corporation, indisputably, is the planning authority of the concerned area. The fact that the Collector is the owner of the plot where the encroachment has been reported, does not mean that the Corporation is extricated from its responsibility of the planning authority.”