Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has castigated the BMC, saying that there is no reason why it should “remain a silent bystander for years and years,” and that it can certainly demand that the property owner take up reconstruction or redevelopment of a dilapidated building in a given time frame.
The observation was made by a division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata while allowing the tenants association of a demolished ground plus four-storey building at Goregaon west to seek BMC’s permission to reconstruct it.
The bench has asked the civic body to consider and process the application of the Chandralok People Welfare Association, comprising 103 tenants, within six weeks of date of submission.
Chandralok building on Aarey Road, Pahadi village, was constructed in 1965. It was dubbed a C-1 category dangerous building by the BMC in 2014. In July 2019, the tenants vacated the building and it was demolished.
The tenants approached the HC seeking directions to BMC to direct the building owner – who is also lessee of the land – to redevelop or reconstruct the building and provide them permanent alternate accommodation. Alternatively, the association sought permission to appoint a developer to redevelop the building.
Tenants' Advocate Contended To Redevelop Dilapidated Building
Advocates Abhishek Sawant and Ameet Mehta, appearing for the tenants, contended that the owner has failed to reconstruct or redevelop the building for more than 4 years.
“Since July 2019, all 103 tenants are offsite, scattered across the city, their once tightly-knit community fractured. Since then…they have seen no vestige or semblance of any proposal for reconstruction or redevelopment,” the judges noted in a detailed 30-page order.
The judges also remarked that the owners had failed to show “tangible steps” taken towards either reconstruction or redevelopment.
The plea sought permission to reconstruct the building under section 499 of the BMC Act which “gives bodies like the petitioners the right to come together as an association and apply for and obtain reconstruction permission”.
The court rapped the civic body for remaining a silent spectator all these years.
The court also termed the owners’ contention that they have no obligation to reconstruct or to redevelop and the reasoning that the BMC has no power to permit reconstruction by tenants of a demolished tenanted building, as “untenable and unreasonable”. However, the bench agreed that the tenants only have the right to reconstruct the demolished area and not redevelop the entire building. Hence, it asked the tenants to approach the BMC for reconstruction permission. It also clarified that there is no requirement for consent or NOC from the owners for such reconstruction permission.
Besides, the judges clarified that the Association must arrange for financing reconstruction.