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Building Collapse Cases: Bombay HC Directs Criminal Action against Officials Allowing Illegal Construction

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Bombay High Court Law Insider

Mitali Palnitkar

Published On:- February 27, 2022 at 13:06 IST

The Bombay High Court observed that citizens cannot be expected to “languish in Filthy and unhygienic Slums” and that “the Right to Livelihood includes the Right of Decent Living and not an animal existence.”

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed a Judgment in a Suo Motu Public Interest Litigation initiated in September 2020 after the collapse of a building in Bhiwandi, Thane which claimed 40 lives.

It said, “State Government’s prime concern shall be to initiate affordable mass housing facilities for the poor who are forced to live in slums for work in bigger cities.”

It reminded the Municipal and State Officers that the incidents where people lost their lives in Building Collapses need to be prevented. Also, Penal actions and Criminal Proceedings shall be initiated against errant officials.

The Court emphasized that people involved in Illegal Constructions cannot claim immunity and the Occupants shall also be responsible for Negligence according to Law if found guilty.

It held that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is a competent authority with the responsibility to take actions against illegal structures in protected slums even if situated on State Government Land.

The Court took cognizance of Building Collapses in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region between May 15 and June 10, 2021 due to illegal constructions which claimed 11 lives.

It further referred to buildings that became hazardous within a year of construction due to the use of substandard material. It referred to April 2013 incident in Mumbra which claimed 74 lives.

The Court questioned, “Is it not in connivance between the Municipal and State Officials?”

The Bench also batted for affordable mass public housing schemes for the poor and stated that illegal constructions could be prevented if there was the desire and vision to make an effective plan for mass public housing.

It observed that the Policymakers did not think about the accommodation of a large workforce and stated, “the entire focus is on putting up skyscrapers on slum lands.”

Directions were issued to take action against officials responsible for the Malwani incident who were supposed to keep a check on illegal construction.

Planning Authorities were asked to inform State Urban Development Department (UDD) about illegal constructions in the area. And Enquiry shall be conducted within 15 days in case of Building Collapse.- it added

Also, Corruption in Civic bodies shall be brought to book through Anti-graft mechanisms.