‘Don’t want anyone homeless during pandemic’: Bombay HC refuses to allow demolitions, evictions

The Bombay high court on Wednesday refused to relax its interim stay on all demolitions and evictions due to the pandemic situation asked the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to inform the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that its order for eviction of encroachments in a river bed cannot be implemented till October 31.

The court also held that as more than 100 parties who were to be evicted as per the NGT order were not impleaded in the PCMC’s application, they were not inclined to pass orders in favour of the PCMC behind their back.

A full bench headed by chief justice Dipankar Datta, justices AA Sayed, SS Shinde and KK Tated while hearing the interim application of PCMC in the suo motu petition initiated by the high court in March was informed by advocate G H Keluskar that the corporation had approached the HC seeking relaxation of its interim order which stayed all demolition and eviction during the pandemic situation.

Keluskar informed the bench that the NGT through a September 2019 order in an application made by environmentalist Sarang Yadwadkar had directed the PCMC to remove illegal reclamation and evict encroachments on the floodplains of the Ram Nadi river. Keluskar submitted that in June 2020 the NGT had sought compliance of its order but as the HC had stayed all demolitions and evictions through its suo motu writ petition, the PCMC was seeking relaxation of the stay to the extent that it could comply with the NGT order.

In September 2019, the NGT while hearing the application of Yarwadkar relating to illegal reclamation of floodplains, diversion of the original and natural flow of the rivers, encroachment by way of dumping and unauthorized construction on the floodplains of rivers flowing through Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad cities of Maharashtra had directed the removal of the same after identification.

Yarwadkar had again approached the NGT in June, 2020 seeking implementation of its September order as non-implementation of the same by PCMC could have a disastrous effect on the city of Pune during the rains. The NGT had directed the commissioner of PMC to comply.

After hearing the submissions, the bench said that it’s March 2020 interim stay order which has been extended from time to time could not be relaxed.

“Is the NGT not aware of the HC order? Did you inform NGT about the HC order?” justice Datta asked PCMC. “Similar orders have been passed by all high courts across the country. As the persons who will be affected by the relaxation of our stay are not before us, we are not inclined to grant any relief as we do not want anyone to be dispossessed and without a home during the pandemic,” said justice Datta.

The bench then directed the PCMC to inform the NGT about the stay and that it would continue till October 31 and hence its order of eviction and removal of encroachments and illegal constructions along the Ram Nadi floodplains could not be implemented till then and disposed of the interim application.

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