The Bombay HC took suo moto cognizance of the building collapse that took place in the wee hours of 21st of September in Thane’s Bhiwandi area where the death toll has risen to 41. This was a three-storeyed building in the loom town just off Mumbai.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said that the High Court is registering a sou moto PIL. The Court noted that as per reports, the said building was not included in the list of dangerous structures notified by the Bhiwandi Nizampur Muncipal Corporation. Moreover, in the past three years, several notices were issued in respect of having this building vacated due to its dilapidated condition.
The bench observed- “It is unfortunate that no action was taken by the Municipal Authorities to get the building vacated. It is also reported that this building was constructed sometime in the year1984 before the Municipal Corporation was formed and later on, two illegal floors came to be constructed. However, no action was taken by the Municipal Authorities and its officers.”
The Hon’ble Court stated that the right of the citizens to live in a safe building and environment would be a facet of the right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution which provides protection of life and personal liberty and it would be the duty of the civic bodies to bring about a situation where all buildings within their respective jurisdictions are legal, sustainable and safe to reside.
The Hon’ble Court has also held that it would be an absolute obligation of the Municipal Corporations and its officers to have complete knowledge of the conditions of the building. If at the grass-root level such officers take effective and timely actions, such fateful incidents, occurred due to inaction and gross negligence, can be prevented.
The Court has questioned the municipal authorities regarding the machinery available to prevent such occurrences, procedures to identify buildings which are likely to collapse, and has stressed on the need for a uniform mechanism of structural audit of the buildings and a mechanism to fix accountability of concerned persons for not taking any action against illegal construction.
The questions posed by the Court are important to safeguard the rights of the citizens that are guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Judgment Link: Suo Motu PIL of Bombay HC