The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai today told the Bombay High Court that it does not have adequate powers to forcibly evict the occupants of privately-owned dilapidated buildings.
MCGM has filed a petition in the HC, stating difficulties faced by it in implementing the eviction notices issued under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act and seeking more powers. The Corporation finds itself under fire whenever a building collapses. To present its case before the High Court, it has hired senior lawyers S U Kamdar, E P Bharucha and Anil Sakhare.
During the hearing today, the bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and Amjad Sayed asked the Corporation to modify a clause which deals with classification of a structure as dilapidated. Kamdar said MCGM would make the necessary changes. Also, a line will be added in another clause, stating the Corporation will not interfere in the matters where title disputes are pending.
Advocate General Darius Khambata said the state government would extend all the necessary help to the Corporation when it comes to evicting occupants of dilapidated buildings declared as dangerous to live in. Kamdar argued MCGM finds it difficult to "physically" evict the occupants as it does not have enough powers. "When our officers try to implement the eviction notices, cases of molestation are lodged against them," Kamdar said.
Several owners and tenants of private buildings have intervened in the petition, demanding the Corporation should provide alternative accommodation while evicting. However, the MCGM lawyers said the number of such occupants was too high and government could not provide alternative accommodation.
Justice Sayed advised the authorities to take a sympathetic view. "It is a human problem. There is inertia to move. See if you can do anything," he said. But the Advocate General said it was not possible.
"Statistics and logistics are huge. It would not be possible to accommodate the private tenants." The judges also said MCGM should disconnect electricity, water and gas supplies just before carrying out a demolition and not too much in advance. "Don't disconnect it a week or two in advance," said Justice Mohta.
Kamdar said that under the Disaster Management Act, MCGM has the powers to disconnect electricity, water and gas supply before the demolition to avoid any mishap. "We will see to it that it is not disconnected much in advance," he added. There are 593 buildings in the city which are dilapidated. This number can increase as structural audits of buildings aged over 30 years is being carried out.
The petition would be heard next on June 16.