The Bombay High Court on August 29 asked why the Airports Authority of India’s (AAI) decision to relax height restrictions for buildings around the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport was illegal and in violation of law.
A division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M.S. Karnik was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Yeshwant Shenoy pointing out that there are blatant violations of air safety regulations by AAI and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The PIL alleges that AAI has given illegal height clearance for about 200 buildings in violation of their own regulations as well as the regulations of DGCA. The PIL states these clearances have resulted in the conversion of the Mumbai Airfield into a ‘Minefield’ and with the outdated Obstacle mapping (of the year 2000). It further states that the pilots are flying blind and if any of the aircraft crashes into any of these buildings it will result in catastrophe.
The Court remarked, “What is amusing us is that the airport is yet to come up, but buildings are coming up first. Ideally, the airport should come up first and then buildings. Even before the airport has come up, you (authorities) want to have all constructions done. If you make it so tight, doesn’t it raise concerns? Development is needed but not at the risk of people.”
On August 29, the counsel appearing for AAI said, in the past ten days, it had received 123 applications seeking No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the construction of buildings above 55.10 meters and 104 sanctions have been granted and 19 are pending.
AAI’s affidavit states rules issued in the year 2015 under the Aircraft Act permit construction of buildings above 55.10 meters within 20 kilometers radius of the airport. Mr. Shenoy had informed the Court last week that AAI has decided to lift the height restrictions for buildings in the vicinity of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport from 55.1 meters up to 160 meters.
The Bench asked Mr. Shenoy, “Why is this decision bad in law, illegal and ought to be quashed? Tell us that. Is this relaxation of height restrictions a violation of the statutory provisions?” the Court asked. The Bench directed him to file an affidavit on the same and adjourned the hearing to September 29.