Bulldoze buildings, not humanity

Ignorantia juris non excusat is a famous legal principle which, loosely translated, means ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’. In today’s context, however, can it be given precedence over all else? Can emotional value hold no importance over certain legal points? There have been cases where the judiciary has given importance to emotions, culture, and even moral values, over written legal points but has still maintained legal sanctity and upheld the Constitution.

The Constitution bestows the right to property, but that doesn’t apply when the said property is an encroachment. However, even if it is, the BMC, which has the right to demolish illegal structures in Mumbai, does need to follow the rules and also make people understand the law. This is especially valid in two cases reported by this paper a cop’s shanty being razed, and the demolition of a Jogeshwari pre-school’s compound wall with the kids still inside.

The disturbing facts in the cases especially that an official allegedly said, “What do I care? They are not my kids” seem to prove that the human angle did not play a big enough role in the BMC’s thought process. Even if you assume that the authorities were in the right, which they allegedly weren’t, do they have to make such comments?

It is also strange that the BMC, which had issued a notice to the school and other buildings more than six months ago, did not notify the school at all after that, before landing up and demolishing the wall.

Couldn’t the BMC have at least sent a message to the school authorities informing them about the day of the demolition? Failing that, couldn’t they have at least heeded the school authorities’ pleas of waiting for a few hours, until the children were safely home, before running a bulldozer on the wall? There are many more questions and the BMC may say they followed every rule. But what about the tiny tots who were scared?

While we don’t support any illegal structure, we do see the need for the BMC to give proper notice to people who are going to lose their properties. They should not forget that someone calls that ‘illegal’ structure home.

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