Noting that there was no significant rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the city, the Bombay High Court has said it was not inclined to extend stay on demolition of illegal structures and eviction of tenants of such structures beyond October 11, except in the five districts in the state which have witnesses a spike in cases.
On Friday, a full bench comprising chief justice Dipankar Datta and justices Amjad Sayed, SS Shinde and PB Varale extended the interim protection in five districts – Osmanabad, Ratnagiri, Pune, Ahmednagar and Satara – till October 21.
The HC had taken up a suo moto (own its own) PIL last year and stayed demolitions and evictions after nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 brought everything to a standstill including functioning of courts. Over the last year, the HC has been extending interim relief to those who are unable to access justice because of the restricted functioning of the courts due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhkoni submitted a chart to the court giving a details of the positivity rate and the number of people vaccinated in the State. He said that about 91% of the population had its first vaccination, and even though the positivity rate was increasing, it was not worrisome.
Kumbhkoni requested the court not to extend the interim order on stay of demolitions since normalcy had returned.
Advocate Uday Warunjikar, appearing for the Advocates Association of Western India, sought that the interim order be extended saying that even though more than 90% were vaccinated, they were not fully vaccinated and hence not entitled to travel in public transport.
Warunjikar pointed out that the number of cases in the five districts were more than the rest of Maharashtra combined.
The judges said that considering that there was a slight increase in positivity rate and the festivities were round the corner it was appropriate to continue the interim protection.
Justice Shinde remarked that if 70% of the population is vaccinated, then the remaining 30% can sustain in light of the herd immunity.
To this, Kumbhkoni said that then Mumbai should be bifurcated from the rest of the State since there were rising complaints against illegal constructions, and stalled infrastructure projects due to protection.
Chief justice expressed that in the previous order when the Court had indicated that it will not extend interim orders, it was expected that the citizens would take measures to ensure they are fully vaccinated to be eligible for travel.
Chief justice said: “It is not like there is dearth of vaccines. People who have not taken vaccines are hesitant. People who wanted vaccines, have already taken vaccinations.”
The court then extended interim order till October 11 in the city and till October 21 in the rest of the state.
The HC has kept the matter for hearing on October 22.