Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Mumbai: In a huge relief to hundreds of agitating residents of the Campa Cola Compound in South Mumbai`s posh Worli area, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the demolition of illegal flats built there till May 31, 2014.
Taking suo motu cognizance of the issue, the apex court directed the officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to halt the demolition work with immediate effect.
The order in this regard was passed by an apex court bench headed by Justice GS Singhvi. The court ordered the stay of demolition after senior counsel Fali Nariman mentioned the matter before the court.
Soon after the court`s order, the residents exulted over the decision and burst crackers.
The apex court earlier this year had said that these flats have to be pulled down because of violation by the builders. These flats were constructed three decades ago.
Later in the day, the apex court bench posted the matter or next hearing on November 19.
The Supreme Court bench said that it was badly disturbed by the developments that took place at Campa Cola complex premises in Mumbai.
The bench also directed the Attorney-General to submit specific proposal for a permanent solution to this problem and asked him to reply before November 19.
The bench also questioned the BMC for failing to take action against erroneous builders, who were actually responsible for the situation.
Though temporary, but the development has given a fresh lease of life to hundreds of Campa Cola society residents who have waged a do-or-die battle to save their homes, claiming that they had done nothing wrong and they were duped by builders.
In the wake of the apex court order, the BMC has begun removing its demolition squad. Member of Parliament from South Mumbai Milind Deora and the residents of the Campa Cola Compound have welcomed the Supreme Court order.
"We welcome the SC decision to put a stay on the demolition in Campa Cola. It is heartening and welcome news. It is also time for CM to walk the talk, time for him to show concern for people," a jubilant Deora said.
Meanwhile, the BMC officials have also confirmed that they have received stay order from SC on demolition till May 31, 2014.
Ahead of the apex court ruling, a high drama unfolded at the Cola Compound when the BMC officials managed to break the main gate of society and entered inside to carry out the eviction work. The police then took control of the area and blocked any outsider from entering the society.
There was a heavy deployment of police in and outside the society. The residents looked completely distraught, raging in anger and pleaded to political parties for help. Several children, college going youth also joined them in blocking the BMC officials from entering the society campus.
There were reports of a clash between the residents and the local police, however the BMC officials denied using force for carrying out the demolition of illegal flats.
Hundreds of residents and their well-wishers yesterday locked the society`s gates from inside for hours in a bid to prevent the BMC`s demolition squad and policemen from entering the premise to carry out the demolition work.
The agitating residents, who shouted anti-government slogans and pleaded to political parties for help, refused to budge even after the BMC officials snapped electricity, water and gas supply to the illegal flats.
With the pressure increasing on the state administration, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has also sought legal help from the Attorney General, whether an ordinance - or an executive order - can save the homes.
"The BMC action is according to the Supreme Court verdict. We are trying to give some relief to the occupants. We are in touch with our legal counsel. Can`t talk on what our next step would be," Chavan had told reporters.
Under pressure to comply with the Supreme Court directive, the BMC officials said that they will keep returning every day to ensure that the apex court`s order to demolish 102 illegal flats in the compound is followed.
"We are trying to handle the situation peacefully and are avoiding using force," said Kishore Kshirsagar, deputy commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
However, the residents were unmoved and said that they were duped by builders. The BMC action came after the deadline set by the Supreme Court for residents to vacate their illegal flats ended on Monday.
Seven highrises were constructed at the Campa Cola Compound between 1981 and 1989. The builders had permission for only six floors, but constructed way too many. One of the buildings, Midtown, has 20 floors. Another building, Orchid, has 17.
Mumbai`s civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decided to bring down the 35 illegal floors in the seven highrises after the Supreme Court refused to regularise them.
To carry out the demolition work, the BMC had made elaborate preparations. The Bruihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) officials issued notices to the residents that action will be initiated as per the Supreme Court orders and electricity supply will be cut.
The Supreme Court in its verdict had ordered BMC that 96 flats (above five floors) across seven buildings in the compound must be demolished after the deadline to vacate the flats ends on November 11.
These flats were built by the builders without the permission of the civic body and hence declared illegal.
BMC had deployed around 150 employees in the demolition process. The teams include officials from ward offices, headed by three assistant municipal commissioners.