Mumbai: The Bombay High Court order on the extension of stay on demolition of illegal structures and eviction of tenants till October 8 will lead to a delay in the already delayed projects such as the Tansa Cycling track, among others.
The High Court had initiated a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) soon after the nationwide lockdown was announced in March last year and restrained authorities from carrying out any proposed demolition of structures or eviction and dispossession of occupants due to the pandemic. Before this, the high court had extended the general stay on demolition, eviction and dispossession granted in 2020 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Even though the stay is for two weeks, if anybody challenges the eviction/demolition, the case might go on and delay projects. However, we will follow the high court order and wait till the stay is lifted as we have done in the past. Projects can wait, we will prefer giving priority to humanity and no eviction would be carried out during Covid-19 and monsoon," said Anant Bhagwatkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner (Removal of Encroachment).
Bhagwatkar added, "However, if there is an urgent matter we can always intervene and seek court's permission. We can even take action against someone who has just started illegal construction."
In the backdrop of this, during the pandemic year, BMC’s dedicated a website – removalofencroachment.mcgm.gov.in – to report encroachments and illegal structures, and received as many as 9,558 complaints from citizens. However, the Mumbai civic body had managed to demolish and take action against only 466 of these illegal structures until March 2021, before Covid-19 pandemic hit the city after which demolition and eviction were stopped.
The data was obtained by founder of NGO Adhikar foundation and RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh, in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application for details on complaints received between March 25, 2020 and February 28, 2021. The data revealed that a total of 13,325 complaints were received during this period. Around 3,767 were repeated complaints hence removed due to duplication. Of the remaining 9,558, BMC had issued eviction notices to 2,730 structures of which 466 structures were demolished.
Shaikh said, “The civic body needs to act quickly against illegal constructions. First, there was a delay in action by BMC, now these illegal structures are enjoying court protection. It's worth noting that more than dilapidated buildings, such illegal structures have been collapsing. Pandemic and all is fine. But that is after March 2020, what stopped the BMC before that? Now, this has become a backlog and a huge problem for the BMC to tackle.”