Coastal road work: Supreme Court dismisses contempt plea against Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation

The Supreme Court (SC) recently dismissed a contempt petition which alleged that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had carried out new construction work for the coastal road project in violation of its previous order.

On May 6, the Apex court had modified a status quo order of the Bombay high court (HC), allowing work to continue on the project across the existing locations only.

The SC had, however, denied construction work in any new areas.

The 29.2-km coastal road aims to reduce travel time between south Mumbai & the western suburbs by 70%.

On Monday, the SC bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta, & Justice Aniruddha Bose was hearing a contempt petition filed by Shweta Wagh from the Society for Improvement, Greenery & Nature (SIGN) alleging that additional construction activity was undertaken by BMC in new areas for the project.

In its order, published on the SC website on Wednesday, the bench dismissed the petition, claiming that solicitor general Tushar Mehta had stated that “it was incorrect that construction in any new area or additional works had been undertaken in violation of the Apex court’s order [May 6, 2019]”.

Mehta also submitted that the Bombay HC had heard the issue & final judgment was awaited in the matter, the SC bench noted.

“In this view of the matter, we do not consider it appropriate to entertain this petition. The contempt petition is dismissed,” the order read.

Wagh was not available for a comment.

However, executive trustee of the Conservation Action Trust, Debi Goenka, who has also filed a petition against the project, alleging adverse effect on marine life, said: “Unfortunately, the HC did not go into the matter at all because it was an order by the SC. In this case, the SC has said they will not intervene in the HC’s final judgment,” said Goenka.

High Court: BMC needs to follow due process of law to take over park

The Bombay High Court today said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) cannot take possession of the 20-acre Priyadarshini Park in south Mumbai without following the due process of law.
The park, situated on the Nepean Sea road, is being maintained since 1985 by the Malabar Hill Citizens’ Forum.
In April last year, the civic body had passed an order, seeking to take possession of the park and to evict the forum.

The order was passed in accordance with a recent policy by which the BMC decided to take over all public parks and gardens, including those entrusted to private trusts for maintenance.

The Malabar Hill Citizens’ Forum had approached the high court challenging the April 2017 order of the BMC.

After hearing arguments in the case, a division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla today opined that the impugned order was passed without following due process of law.

“The petitioner cannot be evicted in such a manner. The corporation will have to follow due process of law before passing such orders,” the court said.

The bench quashed and set aside the order and disposed of the petition.

BMC needs to follow due process of law to take over Priyadarshini park, says Bombay High Court

In a landmark decision, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) cannot take possession of the 20-acre Priyadarshini Park in south Mumbai without following the due process of law.

The park, situated on the Nepean Sea road, is being maintained since 1985 by the Malabar Hill Citizens’ Forum.

In April last year, the civic body had passed an order, seeking to take possession of the park and to evict the forum.

The order was passed in accordance with a recent policy by which the BMC decided to take over all public parks and gardens, including those entrusted to private trusts for maintenance.

The Malabar Hill Citizens’ Forum had approached the high court challenging the April 2017 order of the BMC.

After hearing arguments in the case, a division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla today opined that the impugned order was passed without following due process of law.

“The petitioner cannot be evicted in such a manner. The corporation will have to follow due process of law before passing such orders,” the court said.

The bench quashed and set aside the order and disposed of the petition.

High Court asks cricket body if it will seek extra water for IPL pitches, ground

The Bombay High Court today sought to know from the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) if it would seek additional water supply from the Pune civic body for ground and pitch maintenance for six IPL matches shifted to that city from Chennai.

The MCA stadium at Gahunje in Pune will host the remaining six ‘home’ matches of IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK) after these were shifted from the southern city following protests over the Cauvery water-sharing issue in the Tamil Nadu capital.

A division bench of justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla sought the MCA response while hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO Loksatta Movement in 2016.

Opposing holding of IPL matches in Maharashtra, the NGO had raised concerns over water usage for ground management at a time when the state was reeling under drought.

The bench was today informed by the petitioner’s lawyer that while originally 11 matches were to be played in Maharashtra during the ongoing IPL, six games, which were to be played in Chennai, have now been shifted to Pune.

The lawyer argued that the Pune city and rural areas of the district were already facing water shortage.

The judges then sought to know from the MCA, which manages the stadium, if it would be seeking more water than what is being already supplied to it by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).

Last week, the high court had posed the same query to the Mumbai Cricket Association, which manages the Wankhede stadium, another IPL venue.

The court had asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) if it would supply additional water to the stadium in South Mumbai.

The BMC today filed an affidavit, saying no special water supply would be given to the stadium.

The court posted the petition for further hearing on April 18.

The M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai was the home ground of the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led CSK. The IPL franchise played its first home match on April 10 against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Political parties and other groups in Tamil Nadu had demanded that all the IPL matches scheduled in Chennai be cancelled till the Centre forms the Cauvery Water Management Board. They held protests in support of their demand.

The Supreme Court had on February 16 pronounced its verdict on the Cauvery dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

“The matches had to be shifted out of Chennai as police had said that they were unable to provide security in the prevailing situation” IPL Chairman Rajv Shukla had said on April 12.

Which law allows you to turn private toilets into public ones : Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court today asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to explain the provisions under which the civic body had decided to convert ‘private toilets’ into public ones under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Iqbal Chagla was hearing a writ petition filed by owners of various petrol pumps from across Mumbai, along with the petrol pump association.

The petitioners were seeking a stay on a notice issued by the civic body on December 22, 2017, under which the BMC had put up signboards across all such stations informing the public to utilise the toilets at petrol pumps.

“It is your obligation to build toilets (under Swachh Bharat Mission). While you do not do that, instead you make private toilets into public toilets,” the bench said.

The petitioners had told the high court that they had been directed by the BMC to make toilets at their stations or premises available for the use of general public free of cost under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

The civic body has also put up signboards to the effect at various petrol pumps, the petitioners said.

“What is the source of power that allows BMC to claim that toilets inside private petrol pumps are public toilets?” questioned the court.

The counsel for the BMC said that the corporation had done so to further the cause of the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission.

“A meeting was held and the petitioners had allowed us to use these toilets for public purpose during emergency,” said the counsel.

Justice A S Oka said that action under the Swachh Bharat Mission or any other scheme of the Union government also had to be in accordance to law.

“Which law can allow you to convert private toilets into public toilets,” Justice Oka asked.

He also pointed out that as per the minutes of the meeting submitted by the petitioners, they had never allowed the civic body access to toilets in petrol pumps for general public.

“You cannot put up boards outside their properties saying that the toilets in their premises are public toilets.

How can you do that following the Swachh Bharat Mission. Show us where it says so,” said the court.

The court has now asked the civic body to take instruction in the matter by Wednesday.

“You cannot do this. Take instructions that you will not do this in a private property. The Swachh Bharat Mission cannot affect the rights of others like this. You cannot put up boards without consent of the petrol pump owners. You will have to remove the boards wherever it is required. Otherwise we will have to pass relevant orders,” the high court said.

State must acquire private land within fixed time period: Bombay HC

State must acquire private land within fixed time period: Bombay HC
State must acquire private land within fixed time period: Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court has observed that the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) cannot hold on to a private plot of land without officially acquiring it within the period stipulated under the Land Acquisition Act.

A bench of Justices Riyaz Chagla and Vasanti Naik observed this recently while hearing a petition filed by city resident Hasan Ali Jetha.

As per Jetha’s plea, he owns plots of land in Mazgaon area of the city.

In 1964, the Maharashtra government decided to use one of his plots for developing an open public space. While the plan was notified in the corresponding development plan (DP) for the year, in 1986 the state government changed its mind and decided against acquiring the land.

However, the state government failed to follow the procedure of issuing the mandatory notification to show that the plot had been deleted from the list of reserved plots.

Thus, much confusion occurred and in the next DP notified in 1991, the land continued to be shown as reserved for the public space that was to be developed by the BMC.

Jetha approached the BMC and the state seeking his land be shown as de-reserved and he be allowed to develop it for his use.

However, the state authorities did not offer help and he finally approached the high court.

In 2007, another bench of the high court had held that the government’s notification seeking acquisition of Jetha’s land had lapsed and thus, his rights over the said plot of land must be restored.

However, even the draft development plan for 2013-14 continued showing Jetha’s plot as reserved for the public space project, the BMC rejected his request for permission to develop the land for his own use.

He then approached the Bombay HC again arguing that the authorities were not justified in including his land in the draft DP and that the state’s failure to issue the notification to delete his plot from the list of reserved plots was “bad in law”.

However, in a hearing held earlier this month, the counsel for BMC told the HC that in 2003, it had deposited with the state government the amount that was liable to be paid to Jetha towards acquisition of the said land.

“The state government therefore, should have taken some steps to ensure that the land of the petitioner was acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894,” the BMC said.

The bench, however, held earlier this month that the state and the BMC were bound to execute the 2007 order of HC to de-reserve Jetha’s plot.

“In the circumstances of the case, the petitioner is entitled to the relief claimed,” it said.

The court had allowed his petition in 2007, and had declared that there was a deemed lapse of reservation in respect of the land of the petitioner since no steps were taken by the authorities for the acquisition of the land within the time stipulated, the bench said.

It also observed that it was necessary for the state government to issue a formal notification within a time frame (to de-reserve it).

The bench also directed the BMC to expeditiously decide upon Jetha’s application seeking permission to develop the said land on his own.

The court, however, added that if the state and the BMC were still interested in acquiring the said plot of land, they were free to initiate fresh action in accordance with the Land acquisition Act.

( Source – PTI )

Explain logic behind appointing senior lawyers for petty matters

Explain logic behind appointing senior lawyers for petty matters
Explain logic behind appointing senior lawyers for petty matters

Irked by the “lackadaisical response” of the BMC lawyers in “several important” cases, the Bombay High Court has directed the civic body to explain the logic it employs for leaving these cases to “not-so-capable” advocates while engaging services of “senior counsel for petty matters”.

The court directed Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Ajoy Mehta to file an affidavit on the issue by September 7 this year.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and MS Karnik said that considering that the corporation pays these lawyers using funds from the “public exchequer”, it owes an explanation to the court and to the public for leaving the “important cases to not-so-capable lawyers.”.

“There is no doubt that it is the sweet choice of a litigant to engage whichever lawyer it wants to. However, the BMC runs on the money that it receives from the public exchequer. It ultimately spends the tax payers’ money,” the bench said.

“Therefore, we direct the BMC to personally file an affidavit explaining the logic behind the corporation’s policy to engage senior counsel for petty matters, and leaving the important matters to those lawyers who are on its payroll,” it said.

The bench also directed the BMC Commissioner to explain, in the affidavit, why “there is always an inordinate delay on part of the corporation when it comes to submitting its replies and affidavits in cases where it is a party.”

It warned that if it finds the explanations in the affidavit to be “unsatisfactory”, it will be “constrained to summon the BMC Commissioner to court”.

The directions came while the court was hearing a petition filed by a real estate developer challenging an adverse order of the National Green Tribunal.

Not only had the Corporation delayed filing its reply in the case, but its lawyer also failed to satisfy the court’s queries on the Union government’s policies and environmental rules relevant to the case.

“We are taking judicial notice of some old newspaper reports that say that the BMC spends hundreds of crores on legal fees paid to senior lawyers. We have also noticed that even in petty matters concerning demolition of unauthorised structures, the services of senior lawyers are engaged.

“However, in cases like the present that involve complicated issues, interpretation of laws and so, we find that BMC is being defended by a lawyer who is an employee of the corporation.

“We fail to appreciate the rationale behind leaving important matters that have bearings on the fate of many to the mercy of a lawyer who is not equipped to meet the challenges raised by the other side,” the bench said.

( Source – PTI )

Can’t control nature but haven’t moved an inch: Bombay HC on Mumbai floods

Can't control nature but haven't moved an inch: Bombay HC on Mumbai floods
Can’t control nature but haven’t moved an inch: Bombay HC on Mumbai floods

The Bombay High Court has said we cannot control nature but the situation in the city of Mumbai which has been facing floods during monsoons regularly has not improved in the past few years.

The remarks were made by a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar while hearing a PIL by advocate Atal Bihari Dubey seeking a second doppler radar system to be set up in the city and other measures to be taken to ensure that people do not suffer due to floods.

“We cannot control nature. But this is not the first time this is happening in Mumbai. We have not moved an inch,” Chief Justice Chellur said.

The PIL was filed a few years back and in 2016 the court was informed by the Maharashtra government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that a site was identified and sanctioned in suburban Goregaon to set up a doppler radar.

Petitioner’s counsel S C Naidu yesterday told the court that till date there has been no progress in the matter.

“The site has been sanctioned but at a premium rate due to which the matter has become stagnant,” Naidu told the court.

He pointed out that this year too on August 29 Mumbai came to a standstill due to heavy rains.

The court has now posted the petition for hearing on September 7.

( Source – PTI )

Bombay High Court notice to cops over security to BMC staff during demolition

Bombay High Court notice to cops over security to BMC staff during demolition
Bombay High Court notice to cops over security to BMC staff during demolition

The Bombay High Court has issued notice to the city police commissioner and senior police inspectors of those police stations that refused to provide protection to civic officials while demolishing illegal hutments from pipelines supplying drinking water.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Anil Menon were informed by senior counsel S U Kamdar, appearing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that despite several written requests made to the police seeking protection during the demolition drives, it is not provided.

The high court was hearing an application filed by the civic body in a pending Public Interest Litigation (PIL) of 2006 seeking action against illegal encroachments near water pipelines in the city.

In 2009, the high court had ordered for removal of over 15,000 hutments, which are on the pipelines or adjacent to it.

Yesterday, Kamdar informed the high court that Phase I of the demolition drive is complete and a compound wall has been constructed. He said in Phase II the corporation staff had tried to demolish the hutments, but were faced with agitation and stone pelting.

“We wrote several letters to the police seeking their protection, but to no avail,” Kamdar said.

The high court then directed for Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria to be added as a respondent in the PIL and also the police officers in-charge of the police stations, which failed to provide police protection to the civic staff.

“We direct the commissioner of police and the police officers to ensure that protection is given to civic staff as and when required,” the court said.

It has posted the matter for further hearing on September 20.

SC to hear Campa Cola illegal flats case Jan 6

ccIn a huge relief to hundreds of agitating residents of the Campa Cola Compound in South Mumbai’s posh Worli area, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the demolition of illegal flats built there till May 31, 2014.

Taking suo motu cognizance of the issue, the apex court directed the officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to halt the demolition work with immediate effect.

The order in this regard was passed by an apex court bench headed by Justice GS Singhvi. The court ordered the stay of demolition after senior counsel Fali Nariman mentioned the matter before the court.

Soon after the court’s order, the residents exulted over the decision and burst crackers.

The apex court earlier this year had said that these flats have to be pulled down because of violation by the builders. These flats were constructed three decades ago.

Later in the day, the apex court bench posted the matter or next hearing on November 19.

The Supreme Court bench said that it was badly disturbed by the developments that took place at Campa Cola complex premises in Mumbai.

The bench also directed the Attorney-General to submit specific proposal for a permanent solution to this problem and asked him to reply before November 19.

The bench also questioned the BMC for failing to take action against erroneous builders, who were actually responsible for the situation.

Though temporary, but the development has given a fresh lease of life to hundreds of Campa Cola society residents who have waged a do-or-die battle to save their homes, claiming that they had done nothing wrong and they were duped by builders.

In the wake of the apex court order, the BMC has begun removing its demolition squad. Member of Parliament from South Mumbai Milind Deora and the residents of the Campa Cola Compound have welcomed the Supreme Court order.

“We welcome the SC decision to put a stay on the demolition in Campa Cola. It is heartening and welcome news. It is also time for CM to walk the talk, time for him to show concern for people,” a jubilant Deora said.

Meanwhile, the BMC officials have also confirmed that they have received stay order from SC on demolition till May 31, 2014.

Ahead of the apex court ruling, a high drama unfolded at the Cola Compound when the BMC officials managed to break the main gate of society and entered inside to carry out the eviction work. The police then took control of the area and blocked any outsider from entering the society.

There was a heavy deployment of police in and outside the society. The residents looked completely distraught, raging in anger and pleaded to political parties for help. Several children, college going youth also joined them in blocking the BMC officials from entering the society campus.

There were reports of a clash between the residents and the local police, however the BMC officials denied using force for carrying out the demolition of illegal flats.

Hundreds of residents and their well-wishers yesterday locked the society’s gates from inside for hours in a bid to prevent the BMC’s demolition squad and policemen from entering the premise to carry out the demolition work.

The agitating residents, who shouted anti-government slogans and pleaded to political parties for help, refused to budge even after the BMC officials snapped electricity, water and gas supply to the illegal flats.

With the pressure increasing on the state administration, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has also sought legal help from the Attorney General, whether an ordinance – or an executive order – can save the homes.

“The BMC action is according to the Supreme Court verdict. We are trying to give some relief to the occupants. We are in touch with our legal counsel. Can’t talk on what our next step would be,” Chavan had told reporters.

Under pressure to comply with the Supreme Court directive, the BMC officials said that they will keep returning every day to ensure that the apex court’s order to demolish 102 illegal flats in the compound is followed.

“We are trying to handle the situation peacefully and are avoiding using force,” said Kishore Kshirsagar, deputy commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

However, the residents were unmoved and said that they were duped by builders. The BMC action came after the deadline set by the Supreme Court for residents to vacate their illegal flats ended on Monday.

Seven highrises were constructed at the Campa Cola Compound between 1981 and 1989. The builders had permission for only six floors, but constructed way too many. One of the buildings, Midtown, has 20 floors. Another building, Orchid, has 17.

Mumbai’s civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decided to bring down the 35 illegal floors in the seven highrises after the Supreme Court refused to regularise them.

To carry out the demolition work, the BMC had made elaborate preparations. The Bruihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) officials issued notices to the residents that action will be initiated as per the Supreme Court orders and electricity supply will be cut.

The Supreme Court in its verdict had ordered BMC that 96 flats (above five floors) across seven buildings in the compound must be demolished after the deadline to vacate the flats ends on November 11.

These flats were built by the builders without the permission of the civic body and hence declared illegal.

BMC had deployed around 150 employees in the demolition process. The teams include officials from ward offices, headed by three assistant municipal commissioners.

(Source: IANS)