The Bombay High Court has permitted the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to use a private residential building it requisitioned as a quarantine facility, after the civic body gave an undertaking to pay a monthly rent of over Rs 28 lakh for such use.
In an order passed last week, a bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and N R Borkar permitted the BMC to use Neelkamal Realty Tower in Byculla area of Mumbai as a quarantine facility, as long as it paid the rent for the 200-odd tenants of the redevelopment building who are currently staying in transit accommodations.
Neelkamal Realty, a D B group company, had challenged the BMC’s power to requisition private buildings and approached the high court, seeking that the civic body’s decision to use them as quarantine facility be disallowed.
However, BMC’s counsel Anil Sakhre told the high court on previous hearings that the civic body had powers to requisition private buildings under the Epidemic Diseases Act.
He said as on June 12, when the BMC filed an affidavit in the high court, 975 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the city’s E-ward, which covers Byculla.
The BMC submitted that 2,699 people in the ward had been identified as belonging to ‘high risk’ category, since they had come in contact with coronavirus positive persons.
Therefore, considering the high number of cases and lack of adequate quarantine facilities in the area, the building had already been taken over in April this year and converted into a 1,000-bed quarantine facility, currently occupied by 940 people, the BMC told the court.
As per the civic body, Neelkamal Realty Tower, a redevelopment building meant to house 240-odd tenants, is yet to meet the civic requirements for an occupation certificate.
The building’s proximity to Kasturba and Nair hospitals also made it suitable for use as a quarantine facility, BMC counsels Aspi Chinoy and Anil Sakhre told the high court.
Advocate Vivek Shukla, counsel for some of the tenants, told HC that the tenants could not object to the requisitioning since the developer had indulged in “some illegalities in construction, and he was yet to hand over the building to them”.
He also said they had not been paid the rent by the developer for last four months.
Noting that only nine out of the 218 tenants had objected to the requisitioning, the high court permitted the BMC to use the building as long as it paid the rent from April onwards.
The BMC is “allowed to use the subject building for housing individuals required to be kept in quarantine, until further orders are passed by this court,” the bench said.
“The undertaking that they (BMC) shall start making actual payments aggregating to Rs 28,38,587 per month to the original residential and commercial tenants on and from April 24, 2020, until the possession of the building is handed over to the petitioner developer, is accepted,” it said.