The Bombay High Court, on April 27, 2016, rejected a Maharashtra Government plea, seeking to implement a policy to regularise illegal structures across the state, which have come up prior to December 31, 2015.
Turning down the plea, the court held that such a policy violated of Article 14 of the Constitution and was also not in conformity with the provisions of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act (MRTP), 1966. The bench also observed that the proposed policy was not in consonance with the Development Control Regulations and rules.
“We cannot allow such a policy…the application of the state government for regularising illegal constructions is hereby rejected,” said a bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka. Maharashtra cannot be allowed to protect illegal structures in keeping with the provisions of existing laws, the judges ruled, adding that the policy also violated a High Court order, restraining the government from extending the cut-off date of January 1, 1995.
The high court was informed by the counsel for the petitioner, Datta Mane, that there were around 2.5 lakh illegal structures in the state, excluding the slums.
A draft of the policy was presented to the court earlier this month, during the hearing of a public interest litigation challenging illegal constructions in Navi Mumbai on public land. The proposed policy permitted construction on land reserved for schools, playgrounds, roads, open spaces and even government land and those belonging to public authorities.
It also proposed to regularise illegal constructions in industrial, commercial and no-development zones, by converting them into residential zones. Besides, it allowed illegal structures to be regularised in residential zones.
The court opined that if such a large number of constructions were regularised, people at large would be deprived of civic amenities, such as water and electricity supply, because it would not be possible for the authorities to cater to the huge population.
The state was duty-bound to study how the provision of civic amenities to the people would be impacted, if illegal structures were allowed to be regularised, observed the bench.
While countering the claim on the number of illegal buildings in the state, government pleader Abhinandan Vagiyani, said, ‘it could be less.’ Vagiyani said that the draft policy seeking to regularise illegal structures was not irrational as argued by the petitioner. A planning authority scrutinises proposals for regularisation and under existing municipal laws, it is open for them to regularise illegal constructions, he said.
Justices Abhay Oka and Prakash Naik ruled that the policy was illegal and contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court, which has said that illegal constructions should not be tolerated. The bench pulled up the state for coming out with such a policy and said “This would not be tolerated.”
Acting on PILs, the high court, on July 30 last year, had ordered City and Industrial Corporation (CIDCO), Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) to form special squads, to identify illegal structures which had come up on their land and demolish them.
The HC also asked the authorities to complete within six months, the survey of all unauthorised constructions within their respective areas, so that action could be taken to demolish the illegal structures.
In keeping with the high court orders, CIDCO and MIDC started pulling down illegal constructions which had come up on their lands, prompting the state to come out with a policy to regularise the illegal structures all over the state.