Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Stating that it cannot allow anyone to be rendered homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bombay High Court refused to grant permission to the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) for removal of encroachments along riverbeds in areas under the latter's jurisdiction.

The civic body had moved an application before a four-judge bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta, seeking permission to comply with the National Green Tribunals (NGT) June 16 order about clearing encroachments from some riverbeds.

The larger bench, however, pointed out that it had previously passed an order restricting any demolition or eviction work during the pandemic.

The special larger bench was constituted in March after the COVID-19 lockdown was announced, and on March 26, it had issued a suo motu order stating that orders for eviction, dispossession and demolition already passed by the courts will also remain in abeyance until April 30.

At the time, the bench had also asked authorities across the state to go slow while taking coercive steps that may drive citizens to court of law, in view of the pandemic.

On Wednesday therefore, the bench refused to grant relief to the PCMC in view of its previous suo moto order.

As removing the encroachments would render some people homeless, the court could not allow the same during the pandemic, the bench stated.

It also noted that persons who would be affected by the implementation of the NGT's order, were not before the high court as a party to the application.

The bench, therefore, directed the PCMC to inform the NGT of the court's suo moto order if it insisted on compliance of its order.

"You tell the Tribunal that a larger bench has passed such an order. In fact, all high courts across the country have passed similar orders against eviction demolition, dispossession etc in view of the pandemic," the bench said.

"We can't allow anyone to be rendered homeless during the pandemic," it said.

The bench also directed that all interim orders passed by courts across Maharashtra and Goa, which are in operation, shall continue till October 31 in light of the COVID-19 situation.

It also extended the operation of the above suo moto order till October 31, observing that courts are yet to begin functioning at their full capacity and the COVID-19 situation in Maharashtra continued to be grim.

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