The Bombay High Court on November 2 stayed a demolition notice issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to Senior Advocate V Sridharan, the co-founder of tax law firm Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan [V Sridharan v. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation].
The demolition notice was issued by BMC alleging unauthorised merging of a niche area with the advocate's office premises
In an order dated November 2, a division bench of Justices GS Patel and Kamal Khata observed that it would have to examine BMC's action of selectively invoking its statutory powers by issuing notices.
"The notification is stayed. The BMC will not take further action against the niche in question and will send no further notices in that regard," the Court ordered.
It also took exception to the fact that BMC sends mere stop-work notice when it comes to several largescale illegal constructions, while it sent a demolition notice when it came to a niche area incorporated within a cramped workspace in Mumbai.
"We are not concerned with a building, a structure or many thousand of square feet. We are confronted with a niche. It is probably no more than a reasonable closet-sized space. In context: hundreds of thousands of square feet being constructed openly — stop work notice. A tiny niche incorporated into one of Mumbai’s notoriously cramped workspaces — demolish," the bench remarked.
In view of these observations, the bench stayed the notice till further orders and listed the petition for hearing on December 13.
The order was passed after V Sridharan moved the Court challenging the notice issued by the executive engineer at BMC on October 23 for alleged illegal construction.
The notice directed the lawyer to restore, remove or demolish the concerned structure by November 15.
Advocate Prakash Shah appeared for the petitioner and argued that the notice had been issued after a decision by the civic authorities without giving a hearing to the Senior Advocate.
He also informed the Court that the housing society in which the petitioner had his office had applied for regularisation of the concerned area, which was still pending for consideration.
The Court granted an urgent hearing and passed an interim order in favour of the petitioner.
"For the most minor irregularity, the entire machinery of the MCGM is thrown at it with considerable aggression, but for anything that is on a larger scale, other than a stop work notice, nothing at all happens. Large scale illegalities directly affect the adherence to and implementation of planning law and generally of town planning. The merging of a niche area into an office is hardly comparable in a situation like this," the Court said.