HC pulls up BMC, State for forcing project-affected to stay in Mahul

Court says authorities should treat people with dignity and not with callousness

Published - August 21, 2019 01:31 am IST - Mumbai

Show us mercy: Children of project-affected people living in Mahul protest the State government’s failure to provide them with alternative accommodation.

Show us mercy: Children of project-affected people living in Mahul protest the State government’s failure to provide them with alternative accommodation.

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the State government for forcing over 5,000 families to stay in the chemical pollution-affected Mahul area.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the residents of Mahul in Chembur, who were displaced when the BMC demolished all encroachments and illegal constructions along the Tansa water pipeline last year.

The aggrieved residents moved the court stating that the BMC and the State government are not following the High Court order on providing them with ₹15,000 per month as rent and an additional ₹45,000 as refundable deposit to shift to an alternative place. The Bench said, “You [authorities] cannot send them to a hellhole. These are citizens, rich or poor, they should be treated with dignity and not with such callousness.”

The Bench referred to the Biblical story of Noah and his ark. It said, “When the floods came, Noah didn’t leave even a single animal behind, but took them all on his boat. Similarly, you must take care of the interests of all your citizens, whether poor or rich.”

In Mahul, the citizens were forced to stay in a complex of 72 buildings surrounded by refineries, chemical and fertilizer plants, petroleum companies and other industrial units. The area was declared unfit for human habitation by the National Green Tribunal in 2015 and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay this year. On April 3, another Division Bench of the High Court directed the State to pay a monthly rent to those families that did not wish to stay in Mahul.

On Tuesday, the BMC claimed that it had not paid the rent amount since the High Court order had been stayed by the Supreme Court. However, after verification of records, the court said while the State’s appeal was pending in the apex court, no stay was granted on the High Court’s order.

The court will hear the matter in detail next week.

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