Bombay HC pulls up BMC for requisitioning redevelopment buildings as quarantine facilities

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai | Published: June 7, 2020 7:02:51 pm

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The bench directed the BMC to file a detailed affidavit by June 9. (File)

The Bombay High Court has pulled up the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation over its decision of requisitioning buildings constructed under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme for setting up quarantine facilities for Covid-19 patients and said it was “absolutely unjust and unfair”. The HC further said the decision was taken without “scant consideration” on the plight of people who were awaiting completion of redevelopment works.

A division bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and SP Tavade, hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the May 31 BMC circular, directed the civic body to file a response by June 9, stating details of buildings in the city requisitioned for isolation facilities along with their bed capacity and the number of individuals quarantined at these facilities.

“This action on the part of the BMC prima facie appears to be absolutely unjust and unfair and done with scant regard or consideration to the plight of those people who have no roof to call their own,” the bench said.

The petitioners, through advocates Nilesh Gala, Karl Tamboly, Girish Godbole, moved the court after the civic body failed to inform them of the duration it was taking possession of the buildings and the amount it would pay to the developers as compensation for requisitioning the buildings.

The court also noted that the BMC failed to comply with a May 22 order of the bench directing the civic body to file an affidavit within two weeks, indicating the duration of requisition of the buildings and the compensation that would be paid to the petitioners.

The court further said hundreds of families who had handed over their original tenements to developers had started residing in transit camps or in other accommodation procured on leave and license basis as developers had agreed to pay for their temporary alternate accommodation. The HC said that developers took several years to complete the redevelopment work and also stopped paying for temporary arrangements.

“Consequently, since most of the families faced financial constraints, it became impossible for them to pay the monthly compensation to the landlords/licensors, because of which they virtually landed on the streets,” the HC said.

The bench further said in view of these difficulties, the tenants in an individual capacity or through associations approached the courts and obtained necessary orders against developers or the civic body for ensuring immediate completion of redevelopment and restoration of roofs over their heads, which they had lost since the last several years.

In view of court directions, the redevelopment work was completed in several cases and completion or occupation certificates remained to be issued.

“Despite pathetic circumstances of such families who are longing to secure their legitimate roof over their heads, BMC, under the garb of May 31 circular started requisitioning the buildings for providing quarantine facilities and consequently original tenants or owners are deprived of their very own residence,” the bench said.

The bench directed the BMC to file a detailed affidavit by June 9. It also asked the petitioners to file a rejoinder to the same by June 12. The court directed BMC to maintain status quo for two weeks and posted the matter on June 16.

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