Mumbai: Observing that it is not an extended branch of any municipal corporation, the Bombay High Court reiterated that it would not pass any orders to maintain the ‘status quo’ in cases of dilapidated buildings in the city. The HC said the congested city has buildings, especially on roads and near stations, and thus, even if a single building collapses, it will have an impact on other structures too.
A bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel had last month delivered a judgment banning the usual practice of passing status quo orders in matters pertaining to dilapidated or dangerous buildings. It had also stopped the practice of accepting undertakings from the tenants of such buildings and allowing them to continue to reside in the structure at their own risk.
Despite this ruling, the bench was being petitioned by several such tenants of various buildings across Mumbai, challenging the eviction notice issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Irked by this, the judges said, “We will now make it abundantly clear that courts, and especially the High Court, is not an extension of a municipality or municipal corporation. We do not grant or refuse building permissions.”
“Where there is a divergence of expert opinion on facts, and especially on technical facts, this court will always take the approach that poses the least risk, even if this causes the most inconvenience. This court will always bear in mind that apart from the risk to those in occupation, every building in the city, and especially a city as congested as Mumbai, poses a risk not only to its occupants but also to passersby,” the bench remarked.
In its fresh orders, the bench noted that from the very time the practice of passing status quo orders had begun, there were incidents of structures collapsing. “It is only luck that there have been no deaths so far. But luck has a tendency to run out,” the judges said.
“We do not suggest that every building that is old is, only for that reason, necessarily dilapidated. There are many old buildings in Mumbai. We work in one such (HC building). There are many other several decades-old buildings around this city, from Ballard Estate to Churchgate, CST, Colaba, Marine Lines and even in the suburbs. These buildings have been maintained and show no significant structural distress,” the judges noted.
The observations were made in response to a bunch of petitions filed by residents of several buildings from Bandra, challenging the eviction notices issued by the BMC. The BMC had issued the notices as the buildings were dilapidated and dangerous.
The judges, having heard all the contentions, refused to grant any relief to the residents and ordered them to vacate the premises as soon as possible.