The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit on the status of constituting a cell to monitor and prevent illegal construction across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The court also directed the commissioners of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other civic bodies in the MMR to personally explain why laws pertaining to illegal constructions were not being implemented.
In 2018, the High Court had passed a detailed order on taking action against illegal structures in the city and had directed the BMC to constitute a supervisory cell dedicated to monitoring such construction, taking punitive and preventive action, etc.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni on Wednesday noted that the civic body had failed to constitute such a cell and to implement several other directions passed in the 2018 order.
The bench said the city and the entire MMR had witnessed rampant illegal construction through the years.
Instances of illegal construction had not stopped even during the lockdown imposed in view of the COVID 19 pandemic, the court said, adding that the picture would have been different if the supervisory cell had been constituted.
There was no “will” on the state’s part, the court said.
“The commissioners must be held accountable for not ensuring that the laws are enforced,” it said.
These observations were made when the bench was hearing suo-motu proceedings against dilapidated buildings and illegal structures taken up after one such building collapsed in Bhiwandi on September 23, 2020.
Earlier this year, during a hearing in the matter, the High Court had directed the BMC and the civic bodies of Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayandar, Ulhasnagar and Bhiwandi-Nizampur to furnish details of punitive action taken against illegal structures in areas under their respective jurisdiction.
The court on Wednesday directed all these civic bodies to file fresh affidavits with the exact number of illegal structures under their jurisdiction.
It also suggested that the BMC come up with a separate policy for illegal commercial premises.
No one must be permitted to earn profits from such structures and that illegal commercial structures must be the first to be razed, the court said.