Bombay High Court Rejects Padma Shri Awardee's Plea Over Alleged Building Repairs, Cautions Against 'Weaponising' Writ Jurisdiction

Bombay High Court Rejects Padma Shri Awardee's Plea Over Alleged Building Repairs, Cautions Against 'Weaponising' Writ Jurisdiction

Observing that it will not permit its writ jurisdiction to be “weaponised” in a private dispute, the Bombay High Court has dismissed a plea by a Padma Shri awardee Mustansir Barma alleging illegal repairs by the owners in their ground floor premises of the building.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Thursday, December 07, 2023, 11:17 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | Representational Image

Observing that it will not permit its writ jurisdiction to be “weaponised” in a private dispute, the Bombay High Court has dismissed a plea by a Padma Shri awardee Mustansir Barma alleging illegal repairs by the owners in their ground floor premises of the building.

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata on, December 6, dismissed Barma’s plea saying: “We certainly cannot permit our writ jurisdiction to be weaponised in a private dispute by delving into disputed questions of fact.”

Barma had filed a plea against Lambason Hotel and Restaurant Services, which occupies the ground floor in the Sunny House Co-Operative Housing Society in Colaba behind Hotel Taj on Merewether Road. Barma alleged that the hotel had removed the mezzanine floor of the building and lowered the ground floor premises below the plinth level. It alleged that this adversely affected the structural stability of the entire building. It sought that the BMC be directed to issue a stop work notice and to carry out a survey.

Hotel’s advocate Mayur Khandeparkar contended that there was no logical reason why the hotel owner would damage the premises let alone the structure. He added a commercial establishment was proposed to be opened shortly, and was designed as a high-end coffee shop and eatery.

The hotel owner too filed a counter complaint alleging that certain hefties had been strategically positioned to obstruct the access to its premises for installing a compressor for the air conditioning.

The society contended that the audit report of the structural stability in July this year categorised it in the C2-B category, which means that the building requires structural repairs.

BMC granted permission to hotel to carry out repairs, HC observes

The court noted that the BMC had granted permission to the hotel to carry out the necessary repairs. “If the dispute from this individual Petitioner (who repeatedly asserts that he has been conferred the Padma Shri, as if this is of the slightest consequence to his status as a litigant like any other before us) is that the works are not tenantable repairs, then he should have the courage and take the trouble to file a suit, pay court fees and step into the witness box. Simply put, we are not prepared to accept his word for it (and most certainly not merely because he has a Padma Shri),” the bench noted.

Court reviews evidence

After going through the photographs submitted regarding the repairs undertaken on the premises, the bench said: “... collection of photographs… shown to us... as if to suggest that these works are shocking and show structural distress. As everybody who has lived in premises that are under repair knows, every kind of renovation looks like devastation initially.”

Initially, it was repeatedly argued that the structure was 100 years old. This argument was solemnly advanced in a building that was 150 years old, the bench said.

Emphasising that this was a private dispute, the HC said: “This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the Petition is not bona fide but an attempt — and a poorly disguised one at that — to agitate some private disputes… The less said of this Petition the better.”

It restrained Barma and the society from creating any obstruction to the access of the hotel.

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