Twenty-five buildings in Sion, which house Partition refugees from Pakistan, are in a dilapidated condition and the lives of 6,000 people are in danger, the BMC told the Bombay high court on Monday.
The corporation, which wants to demolish these buildings, had moved for an urgent hearing of the application before a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla. The bench is hearing a petition filed by the residents opposing the demolition. The litigants are seeking directives to the state to frame a redevelopment proposal for the buildings. The bench has scheduled the plea for further hearing on Tuesday.
“The technical advisory committee (TAC) has conducted all the necessary tests to check the structural stability of the buildings. In its report the panel has said that the buildings are in a dilapidated condition and may collapse without warning,” said BMC counsel Dhruti Kapadia. “Not only the lives of around 6,000 persons who reside in these buildings, but also that of passers-by are in danger if the structures collapse. Due to the monsoon, the corporation wants to evacuate the residents and demolish the buildings at the earliest,” the advocate told the court.
The buildings, in Sardar Colony in Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar, were constructed in the late 1950s on land belonging to the state government to house refugees who had come from Pakistan in 1947. The families were given legal ownership of the apartments. In 2015, the BMC had declared the buildings as unsafe and initiated proceedings to demolish them.
Earlier this year in April, the TAC submitted its report and on May 7, the BMC issued demolition notices. A vacation bench of the HC in an interim order had restrained the BMC from taking coercive steps. “The occupation of the (building) shall be at their own risk and the petitioners, not the corporation, shall be liable for any criminal action taken for loss of life due to the collapse of the building,” a bench of the HC had said.
Vijay Punjab housing society, the petitioner representing some of the buildings, have blamed the Maharashtra government over its indecision on the redevelopment of the buildings. According to the petitioner, in earlier rounds of litigation in 2014 and 2015, the state had repeatedly assured the courts that it would come up with a policy to redevelop the buildings, but had failed to do so.