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HC gives nod for demolition of 100-yr-old building

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has given a go ahead to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to demolish a century-old dilapidated building in south Mumbai and directed its occupants to vacate the premises.

The HC, in an order passed on August 11, a copy of which was made available on Monday, noted that the building ‘H N Petit Widows Home’ was located on a busy road and in the event of any untoward incident, it could cause loss of lives.

A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and Kamal Khata upheld the BMC technical advisory committee’s (TAC) decision holding that the building was in a dilapidated and dangerous condition and has to be hence demolished.

Based on the committee’s report, the BMC in April this year issued a letter to the building’s landlord to vacate the premises.

A few occupants of the building and tenants who run shops on its ground floor, however, refused to vacate the premises and moved the HC arguing that the structure only needed minor repairs.

The ground plus five floor structure is more than 100 years old. It was used for providing hostel facilities to widows.

Due to the building’s poor condition, the widows residing there were moved to another hostel in 2019.

In October 2021, the civic body’s TAC held a structural audit meet wherein it came to the conclusion that the building was in a dilapidated condition and may collapse, thereby endangering life of not only the residents but also passersby.

It said the building had to be demolished at the earliest.

The high court in its order noted that the TAC had rightly formed its opinion, and said it was not inclined to form a differing opinion.

It is an admitted fact that the said building is situated on a plot of land in a very congested and crowded area of Bhuleshwar (in south Mumbai) and lots of people are passing through the road on which the building is located, the court said.

If this building is allowed to be retained, if any untoward incident occurs then there will be a loss of lives not only of the occupants of the building but also passersby, the bench said.

The court further held that the plot on which the building stands also abuts the proposed Metro rail alignment and falls within the influence zone of station areas.

We also take note of the fact that a substantial part of the land beneath the building is affected by regular line as well as by the Metro, the HC said.

If the building is demolished and is not reconstructed, then the tenants have an alternate remedy in law, it added.

The court said it cannot accede to the request of the petitioners, who are occupants/tenants of the ground floor to repair the building as this would protect their interest, but would ignore the rights of the building’s landlord and other occupants.

The HC, while upholding the TAC’s decision and the BMC’s letter of April 2022, directed the occupants to vacate the premises within three weeks so that the building could be demolished.

If the occupants do not vacate the premises, then the BMC can take forcible possession and carry out demolition, the court said.

The bench also refused to stay its order, saying it has already granted three weeks’ time to the petitioners to vacate the premises.

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