MUMBAI: The residents of Worli’s Campa Cola Compound believe that the Supreme Court’s latest observations have offered them a ray of hope. But legal experts are cautious in their opinion on whether this paves the way for regularization of the unauthorized floors of the compound’s buildings.
In its February 2013 order, the apex court had said that the residents had failed to make out a case to direct the BMC to regularize the constructions.
“We would like to reiterate that no authority administering municipal laws and other similar laws can encourage violation of the sanctioned plan. The courts are also expected to refrain from exercising equitable jurisdiction for regularization of illegal and unauthorized constructions; else, it would encourage violators of the planning laws and destroy the very idea and concept of planned development of urban as well as rural areas,” a division bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya had said, adding, “The corporation (BMC) is expected to take action in the matter at the earliest.”
On July 7, a bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and S A Bobde told the BMC’s counsel that the court never told the residents to vacate and only said that the flats were unauthorized; also, it had not specifically directed the BMC to demolish the illegal portions of the buildings. “So, it is for the BMC to take action as per law, but no contempt of court is made out,” it said, advising the BMC and the residents to work out, within the legal framework, a settlement on sympathetic grounds.
According to IPS officer-turned-lawyer Y P Singh, the apex court had only said that no contempt was made out and its February 2013 order dismissing the residents’ plea challenging the BMC’s demolition orders had achieved finality. “The BMC now has to implement the demolition orders,” said Singh.
He said an out-of-court settlement to regularize the illegal structures would be difficult and has to be done within the law. “The issue is of floor space index (FSI) violations and the development control regulations are stringent and do not allow for any relaxation. Also, there is no scope for regularization unless the residents can show additional land attached to the plot. However, Coastal Regulation Zone rules do not allow for amalgamation. So it’s not just the BMC, but the Union ministry of environment and forests that is involved and whose approval is required. It is not going to be easy.”
Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who practises in the high court, believes the Supreme Court has inherent powers and even after the February 2013 order, a solution that is within the parameters of law could be found. “Nothing prevents the court from making a suggestion to explore if a way out can be found,” he said. Campa residents are holding on to this hope.