The Bombay High Court has ruled that a municipal body is duty bound to pull down a dilapidated building or structure and police is also obliged to provide logistic support to this exercise even though the occupants of the property may be unwilling to vacate the premises.
The ruling was delivered yesterday by Justices KK Tated and AM Khanwilkar who were hearing a petition filed by Tadeshwar Wadi Cooperative Housing Society seeking directions to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and police to evict the tenants and pull down the dilapidated structure.
“Considering the setting in which the provisions are placed and the purport of those provisions, we have no doubt that even though the primary obligation is on the owner and occupier to act upon the requisition of the Corporation issued u/s 354 of the Act in relation to the structure in ruins or likely to fall, but that does not extricate the Corporation from its duty to remove such structure in public interest at the earliest,” the judges held.
“In doing so, the Corporation may have to resort to eviction of the occupants but that drastic action would be of a far lesser degree than the loss or damage to be caused in the neighbourhood on account of sudden collapse of the dilapidated and dangerous building,” the bench observed.
The judges said they were of the view that the petitioner Society was justified in seeking a direction against the Corporation for its inaction to take successive notices issued u/s 354 of Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act to its logical end by removing the dilapidated and dangerous structure referred to therein.
“For facilitating the officials of the Corporation to discharge this duty, we have no doubt that the police would extend adequate logistical support to them, if so demanded and as may be warranted, which is the obligation of the police authorities u/s 522 of the Act,” the judges said.
The Society, located in Mahim area of the city, has 62 members and has four buildings which are in dangerous and dilapidated condition. A redevelopment proposal has already been approved by the Appropriate Authority, the Society contended before the Court.
Despite notices by the civic body under section 354 of the Act to the society as well as individual members, some occupants refused to vacate the premises on the ground that the Registrar had not complied with certain procedures of the redevelopment and unless that was done they would not vacate.
The Corporation first issued notice in August 2007 to carry out structural repairs but when the occupants did not vacate, it issued another notice in March 2008 to pull down the structures. Yet another notice was served on the Society in March 2012.
The BMC sought help from police which was of the view that some members of the society are not vacating the premises and it would not be advisable to force them to leave the premises to facilitate the demolition of the buildings despite its dangerous condition.
After the civic body gave final notice to the Society and individual occupants asking the members to vacate the buildings immediately, the Corporation as well as Police did not take the notices to their logical end on an erroneous understanding that they had no powers to demolish structures.
Being aggrieved, the Society approached the Bombay High Court which opined that the structures should be pulled down because some portion had already collapsed and the remaining buildings had become vulnerable and likely to collapse any point of time.