A file photo of the Malwani building collapse
A file photo of the Malwani building collapse

The Maharashtra government seems to be protecting illegal constructions, said the Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Tuesday after perusing the report submitted by Justice (retd.) Jayprakash Devadhar, who conducted an enquiry into the tragic mishap of building collapse at Malad's Malwani area wherein 12 people including eight children died.

The HC has now ordered the BMC to go through the report and clarify its stand on the slew of suggestions given by Justice Devadhar to put an end to the menace of illegal constructions in Mumbai. Chief Justice Datta said, "It appears the state has protected illegal constructions. The commission has given findings against both the BMC and also the Collector's office. Thus, before we pass any orders we want the BMC to respond to the report." "All that we need is to put an end to such structures at the earliest", the chief justice added.

In his 35-page report, Justice Devadhar has also suggested the constitution of a dedicated committee comprising representatives from all the authorities including BMC, Police, Port Trust etc. to oversee such structures in the city and also take action against them.

Speaking with the Free Press Journal, Justice Devadhar said, "The most unfortunate part of this tragedy is that the one who constructed this building died himself. In fact his entire family died in the incident".

Justice Devadhar further said that the report further speaks about three decisions of the state to regularise unauthorized structures. "The state government has from time-to-time issued GRs to regularise illegal structures in the city. First such GR was for hutments upto the year 1995 and the latest GR notified regularisation of structures upto 2011," Justice Devadhar said.

"In the report, I have said that continuous regularisation of such structures is encouraging illegal constructions," the retired judge said.

As per his report, the ground floor structure of the building in Malwani which collapsed on June 10, was illegal. "The area was kept open for rehabilitation of displaced tenants. The original documents of the structure weren't available. The building -- new structure, was constructed way back in 2012. It was done unauthorizedly without any permissions," Justice Devadhar said.

The additional collector of the city has blamed the BMC for the incident, stating that the floors of the building in question were illegal. The civic body has pointed fingers at the collector's office stating that the land on which the building stood belonged to the collector and thus it (BMC) has no say.

To this blame-game, Justice Devadhar said, "Factually, it was a ground floor structure with added floors. BMC officials were to visit the site but they did not inspect it from 2012. Even the officials from the Collector office didn't visit the site. Thus, officials from both the departments are to be held responsible."

The report further refers to a 'Standing Committee's notified by the state government way back in 2004 under the chairmanship of BMC commissioner. "This committee included representatives from various departments including the urban development department, Collector, police, port trust etc. The main objective was to take action against illegal constructions", Justice Devadhar explained, adding, "However, this body has been dormant ever since its inception. It never functioned and even met from 2004." "Thus, I have recommended the HC to issue orders to constitute a committee for taking action against such constructions across the city so as to avoid blame game between BMC and other departments," Justice Devadhar concluded.

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