"Stubborn" tenants stall demolition of dilapidated buildings: HC

Observing that it cannot let innocent citizens die due to some "stubborn tenants" and their advocates, the Bombay High Court recently ordered the demolition of a dilapidated building situated in Ghatkopar. The HC said such tenants and their advocates make continuous attempts to stall demolition of dilapidated buildings and it is because of these tactics, there are so many instances of building collapse in the city and nearby districts.

A Bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla lost its cool over the "attempts" of tenants of a building in Ghatkopar West, which has been listed as a dangerous structure since 2019.

The judges in their order noted that the tenants were first issued a notice by the original landlords in June 2019 along with a structural audit report, which recommended demolition of the structure. The tenants, however, disputed the report and carried out a separate audit through an engineer of their choice, who suggested against demolition.

The reports were discussed and considered by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the BMC, which finally passed an order in September 2020, confirming the landlord's report. The TAC too suggested demolition and accordingly the civic body issued an eviction and demolition notice to the tenants, who challenged the same before the HC.

In their order, the judges noted that the HC had in October, while dismissing the tenant's plea had said, "The TAC is a body of technical experts and its report cannot be challenged on the ipsy dipsy of the tenants, who are not desirous of vacating their premises, despite the same being in a dilapidated and dangerous condition."

This order had paved ways for the BMC to demolish the structure by evicting the tenants. However, instead of vacating the dangerous building, the tenants petitioned Justice Kathawalla's Bench seeking some fresh reliefs against the landlord.

The fresh plea sought directions to the landlord to pay them the transit rent apart from several other allowances.

The judges noted that this new plea was nothing but an attempt to stall the demolition orders of the HC.

"It is clear from the prayers that the motive behind fling a fresh plea is to prevent the BMC from demolishing the building which is in a dilapidated and ruinous condition. This attempt in the face of this court's order is nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court," the bench noted.

The Bench pointed out that the tenants and their advocates are aware they cannot be allowed to continue their stay in a dilapidated building and they are always at liberty to seek transit rent etc.

"It is in view of such stubborn attitude of tenants residing in dilapidated buildings which need urgent demolition that several buildings in the city as well as the state have collapsed, resulting in loss of precious lives and damage to property," Justice Kathawalla opined in his orders.

"Such tenants as well as their advocates should realise that if the demolition is delayed, not only will the lives of the tenants and their family members be at risk, but in the event of such buildings collapsing, even the innocent passers-by, may lose their lives, which loss can never be adequately compensated," the Bench added.

While ordering demolition of the building at the earliest, the judges specified that such tenants and advocates must refrain from filing multiple proceedings only to avoid demolition of dangerous structures.

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