File counter in PIL over Municipalities Act: HC

Demolition of illegal structures without prior notice challenged

Telangana High Court on Monday directed the State government to file counter affidavit in a PIL petition that had challenged a provision of new Telangana Municipalities Act empowering government to demolish illegally built structures without prior notice.

Hearing contentions of the petitioner, a division bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A. Abhishek Reddy said sub-section 2 of section 178 of the Act gave unbridled power to Municipal Commissioners to pull down buildings deviating from sanctioned plans. The bench asked the government counsel if it was fair to take a unilateral decision to demolish a building without giving an opportunity of hearing to the other person.

Even persons awarded death sentence were being given an opportunity to explain their version or stand. The government counsel observed that no individual had suffered due to the provisions of the new Telangana Municipalities Act and hence the petition challenging the Act need not be treated as Public Interest Litigation.

But the bench noted that more than the legal technicalities, people had right to challenge a law if it caused inconvenience to citizens. Advocate General B.S. Prasad submitted to the bench that the latter had recently expressed dissatisfaction over authorities failing to check illegal construction activities in different parts of the State.

Chance to be heard

The bench responded saying that it was aware of the matter but that cannot be a justification of empowering officials to bring down buildings without paying heed to the explanation of the owners. Noting that powers accorded to officials should have a mechanism of regulation, the bench said the new Act should also have a system to ensure such powers were not misused.

The government counsel said why should a person indulging in deviation of building plan presented to municipality be given prior notice for demolition of the structure. The bench said irrespective of the gravity of an offence committed by a person, he or she would be given a chance to be heard. Not providing such opportunity is against principles of natural justice, the bench said.

It recalled that the Supreme Court had earlier made it clear that notices should be given to hut dwellers before removing the huts on pavements. The plea was posted to March 11 for next hearing.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 1:36:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/file-counter-in-pil-over-municipalities-act-hc/article30966663.ece

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