BMC informed the Bombay high court on Friday that 45% of the flats inspected in the posh Ashok Towers in Parel show flouting of the building norms. “The BMC will have to take action in accordance with law,” said a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla.
The bench was hearing petitions filed over illegal constructions in the four residential towers—three are 31-storey high and the fourth is a ground-plus-49 storey structure—that have around 1,000 flats.
Senior advocate Anil Sakhare, counsel for the BMC, submitted an affidavit that revealed that the BMC had taken up around 541 apartments for inspection. Of these, two obtained stay order from the court. Of the remaining 539 flats, the BMC found various violations and illegalities in 209 flats and subsequently served notices on the flat owners. Sources in the BMC said the illegalities included structural alterations, layout not as per the sanctioned plans, internal walls being removed, covering outside area and making it part of the flat, as well as amalgamation of flats without permission.
There were no violations observed in the case of 258 flats, while 72 apartments were found locked. The BMC inspection had been ordered by the HC on February 2. Then, the court had made it clear that it would be “be open for all parties to apply for regularization of the offending structures within a period of one month”. During Friday’s hearing, the bench noted that the BMC, in its affidavit, had mentioned that it had not received a single application for regularization of unauthorized construction or illegalities in the flats.
During the hearing, the bench rejected arguments by one of the flat purchasers that the BMC had extended the scope of the petitions. “If the BMC finds there are large-scale violations, then what is wrong in inspecting the flats. How can you say it is a ‘fishing inquiry’ (an inquiry without factual basis). In more than 45% of the flats, violations have been found,” said Justice Oka. “You are not some slum-dweller. You know the rules,” the bench observed, when one of the flat owners mentioned that they had purchased the flat.
In the case of the 72 locked apartments, the society has undertaken to make endeavours to inform the owners of the date that the BMC team would come to inspect their premises. The BMC also requested the court to allow its officials to enter the locked flats and said that pasting notices on the doors would not be enough. The society’s lawyer, however, pointed out that many of these flat owners were abroad on vacation. Advocate Sakhare then said the civic officers would visit the premises on July 4.
Among the petitions was one by the society against the BMC’s decision to regularize certain unauthorized constructions in the four towers. The society claimed portions of the common area, including terraces, swimming pools and lobbies had been illegally enclosed and sold to those who had purchased penthouses. They have sought demolition of these illegal structures.
The court has scheduled the next hearing on July 23.