‘If the buildings violated norms why was BMC silent for so many years’

The possibility of losing the roof over their head never crossed the minds of the residents at the upmarket Campa Cola Compound in Mumbai’s Worli area.

But acting on Supreme Court’s order, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has served demolition on seven buildings in the compound, and asked its residents to vacate their flats within 48 hours.

Around 140 families, who have been living there for more than 25 years, have filed a review petition in the apex court alleging that a nexus between the civic body and builders was behind their ordeal.

In 1955, BMC leased the land to Pure Drinks Ltd. for establishing a factory. In 1980, it sought permission from the civic body to develop a large portion of the land for residential purposes, and signed an agreement with three builders to construct the seven buildings. Out of the seven, two are towers with 17 and 20 floors respectively, while three buildings have six floors each and two have seven floors.

According to BMC, the builders were permitted to construct only five floors and all the floors above that are illegal. The apex court, in its order on February 2013, permitted the BMC to demolish the unauthorised floors.

The decision could turn out to be a landmark one for a city battling unauthorised structures.

It all started in 2005, when the residents of the society, demanding setting up of a water connection, realised the buildings’ plans were never officially passed and none of the residents given occupation certificates despite residing in the buildings for 25 years. This, despite the fact that BMC officials regularly collected property tax from the residents.

The flats were purchased 25 years ago and the purchasers were allegedly fooled by the builders, who told them that the plans had been put up for approval. In reality, the BMC rejected all of them. “It was also not told to us that during the construction the BMC had issued stop work notices and collected penalties from the builders,” said Rohit Malhotra, a resident at the compound. Interestingly, the government accepted relevant stamp duty from buyers while officially registering all the flats.

According to the residents, many of whom are senior citizens, the BMC’s demolition notice will destroy their lives even though they were not at fault. “We are ready to pay the fine for the FSI violation and there are such provisions in BMC. But since this property is at the prime spot in Mumbai, the civic body seems not interested in following their own circulars,” Mr. Malhotra said. If the buildings violated FSI norms then why were civic officials silent for so many years, he asked.

A senior BMC official told The Hindu that the civic body was acting on the Supreme Court’s order. But Mr. Malhotra alleged that the residents were being targeted and said they wouldn’t vacate their flats. “They do not dare touch Adarsh CHS, but want to destroy our lives. We will fight till the end.”