Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court
File pic

Mumbai: Observing that a majority of the illegal constructions has the ‘blessings’ of local civic officials and political ‘masters’, the Bombay High Court recently slammed the Maharashtra government for failing to ‘question’ the jurisdiction of civil courts in cases pertaining to unauthorised constructions.

The move comes after the HC noted that the municipal laws do not permit a civil court to entertain suits challenging the demolition notices issued to illegal structures.

A bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Riyaz Chagla, said, “We are aghast that the authorities are placing before us their difficulties and obstructions in the form of a blanket order of ‘status quo’ passed by the civil court or pendency of civil suits and other proceedings in the competent courts. Whether these are courts competent to decide the matter and how has not been informed at all.”

The bench then referred to the provisions of the Maharshtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) act and also the Municipal Corporation Act, Municipal Council Act and the Village Panchayats Act, which do not allow a civil court to hear suits challenging demolition notices.

“These sections do not permit the institution of a suit for they take away the jurisdiction of a civil court to decide or deal with that which the authority competent under the MRTP Act, 1966 can deal with or decide. Why then the issue of competence of the civil court is not raised, has never been clarified to us,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.

“We would then presume that the construction activity without approvals and permissions has the blessings even of the local body officials together with their political masters,” Justice Dharmadhikari remarked.

The bemch made the observations while hearing a petition highlighting large-scale unauthorised constructions within the limits of the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation (BNMC) and also that of the Maharashtra Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

During the hearing, MMRDA tendered a report stating over 42 villages were surveyed, wherein over 9,000 structures inspected and action initiated against 4,783 such structures. The MMRDA report highlighted most structures were protected by the orders of a civil court.

MMRDA claimed it could not complete its survey in the majority of other villages in the area due to the resistance from local villagers.

Having heard the submission, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “Confidence-building measures will have to be undertaken by MMRDA and other authorities so the villagers are not misled. There are enough elements in society who mislead the villagers by giving them an impression that such a survey would necessarily result in the demolition of their structures.”

“The confidence-building measures fail simply because there are local-level politicians, social leaders, vested interests who gather at the site or in a prearranged manner, systematically lead the villagers to a point of frustration,” Justice Dharmadhikari said while adjourning the matter till April.

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