The Bombay high Court has directed BJP leader Kirit Somaiya to remain personally remain present and file affidavit in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) which has questioned his interest against a joint inspection of 68 slum project files whose sites were under BMC but files were transferred to Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) despite a stop work order on majority of the files.
A division bench of justices RD Dhanuka and MS Karnik on June 13 directed Somaiya to remain present observing that despite an earlier HC order, the BJP leader had failed to failed to appear through an advocate in a PIL in which he has been made a respondent.
“Since the respondent no.4 (Somaiya) was not represented, this Court could not ascertain his interest in the matter and in writing the letter to the Chief Executive Officer, Slum Rehabilitation Authority, Bandra, Mumbai dated 10th October 2020 opposing the joint inspection,” noted the HC.
In April, the HC had directed Somaiya to explain by June 13 the reasons of his interest against a joint inspection. However, Somaiya failed to comply with the directions. Hence, as a last chance, the HC has said: “Issue notice of hearing and final disposal at the admission stage upon the respondent no.4 (Somaiya), returnable on 7th July 2022 with a direction to remain present and file affidavit-in-reply within two weeks from the date of service of papers.
The HC has clarified that in case Somaiya fails to comply with the directions, then “the matter will be proceeded against respondent no.4 ex-parte (in his absence) and no further adjournment will be granted”.
NGO Earth had filed the PIL seeking that quashing of the October 13, 2020, letter issued to it by the SRA cancelling a joint inspection of the 68 files as directed earlier by the Maharashtra housing minister. The letter did not mention any reason for the cancellation. It also sought that the SRA be directed to reschedule the joint inspection.
The PIL has alleged that the SRA had cancelled the inspection following Somaiya’s communication and instigation. On October 10, 2020, Somaiya had written a letter to the SRA CEO against the joint inspection.
Earlier, the HC had also directed the SRA to explain whether it proposes to go ahead with the joint inspection of the 68 sites with the petitioners as participating parties
According to the NGO, it identified projects where there have been “blatant violations of Development Control regulations and constructions that were beyond approved plans before 2012. In a majority of the identified cases, the BMC had issued stop work notices and in 68 cases the files were transferred in January 2012 to the SRA which granted concessions to regularise illegal construction.
The HC has kept the PIL for hearing July 7.