Mumbai: It is a mistake to assume that the condition of a “dilapidated” building only affects the owner of the building and its occupants since a building collapse poses danger to others in the vicinity as well, observed the Bombay High Court while dismissing a petition.
The plea was filed by a society in suburban Andheri challenging the report of Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) declaring the buildings as C-1 category and requiring it to be evacuated and pulled down immediately.
Building collapse can affect anyone in near vicinity
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata on Tuesday observed: “The mistake…. is to assume that the condition of a building only affects the owner of the building and its occupants. That is far from the truth. Almost anywhere in Mumbai a building collapse poses danger to others in the vicinity, including passers-by. That is the larger interest to be served.”
The judges noted that it is not possible to substitute the opinion of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) with an opinion of a court, since TAC comprises experts in the field.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Andheri Purab Paschim Cooperative Housing Society Ltd. challenging the notice issued by the BMC. The society, comprising two buildings of ground plus seven floors and other ground plus six floors at Gilbert Hill Road, claimed that their buildings were structurally sound.
In February this year, the HC granted relief to the society on similar notice by the BMC after the occupants claimed that the buildings were otherwise structurally sound.
It alleged that the buildings were being declared as structurally unsafe and were being ordered to be pulled down “at the instance of rapacious landlords and property owners with the active connivance of municipal officials”. The court at the time had clarified that the occupants were residing at “their own risk” and that “no one shall be held responsible for any mishap”.
BMC issued notice prompting society to approach HC
Early this year, the BMC issued a notice prompting the society to approach HC. The bench noted that when there are conflicting reports regarding structural stability, a third report is commissioned by the TAC. It comprises experts from the BMC itself.
The court emphasised that “it is not possible to substitute the opinion of a TAC with an opinion of a court”. A court cannot resolve the factual dispute about the structural condition of the building, the bench said. “We are not structural engineers. We are not equipped to answer questions like these. That is why the whole edifice of the TAC was created.”
To allay the fear of the occupants, the court also assured that there it is a well-settled principle that tenancies and occupancies are not eradicated and do not vanish because a building is brought down for redevelopment.