Mumbai, October 15: The Maharashtra government, while responding to the suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by Bombay high court (HC) in light of the Bhiwandi building collapse that left around 41 dead, informed the court that it was concerned about unauthorised structures that were collapsing and causing loss of lives.

The state government informed the court that it was in the process of identifying and highlighting such issues for the consideration of the HC, so that steps may be taken to obviate such dangerous situations, as well as to come out with an appropriate scheme for effectively dealing with the issue.

The court directed the state urban development department (UDD) to examine what each municipal corporation, which is party to the case, has submitted with respect to the measures initiated by them against unauthorised structures in their jurisdiction, and file a comprehensive reply in affidavit by October 26. The court also directed the amicus curiae (a neutral lawyer appointed by the court to assist it in cases which require specific expertise) to file a report on submissions made by the respondent authorities, Hindustan Times reported.

When the suo moto PIL came up for hearing before the division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni informed the court that as per the directions of the court the state, through the UDD, had prepared an affidavit in which it was stated that all the local governing bodies were sufficiently empowered under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act and the Mumbai Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act to deal with the issue of dilapidated structures.

The affidavit further stated that as every year, during monsoons, old and dilapidated buildings were collapsing, it had issued a circular to all urban local bodies (ULBs) prescribing guidelines to classify the old and/or dilapidated buildings into various categories specified in it.

Kumbhakoni further submitted that the state had noticed that in many cases of unauthorised constructions, it was the innocent buyers who are cheated and suffer when the structures are demolished. “Therefore, the state issued a circular on May 2018, prescribing a procedure to be followed while taking action against such unauthorised structures in terms of MRTP Act to ensure that such incidents (Bhiwandi building collapse) are not repeated,” submitted Kumbhakoni.

Stressing on the fact that the state was concerned about the issue, the affidavit said, “Most of these issues and/or factors are interlined and are found, most of the times, to be interdependent. The state is in process of listing them out for their appropriate appreciation by HC.”

Kumbhakoni the concluded saying, “I request HC to grant adequate further time to the state government to have a fresh look at the ground realities as also to consider the effect of all such steps that have so far been taken in this regard and thereafter to come out with an appropriate scheme for effectively dealing with the same.”

The court while acceding to the request of the state, directed it to study the affidavits it had asked all party corporations to file and come up with a comprehensive reply on the measures initiated by them respectively to address the issue of dilapidated and unauthorised buildings. The court also observed that out of the eight corporations, only four had filed their affidavits, in which the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation had failed to mention about the dilapidated unauthorised structures.

The court posted the next hearing to October 29.

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