We are all aware that in every monsoon, several old and unsafe buildings suddenly collapse killing hundreds and causing huge losses of human lives. If suitable steps are not measured, it is likely that numbers of such casualties will increase in coming years. 

Civic Authorities have identified many buildings in the city as dangerous or extremely dangerous. Numerous buildings from such lot are structurally weak and in need of immediate repairs. Owners of thousands of these old buildings since receiving insignificant and paltry rent from their tenants cannot afford to get even basic repairs done. 

The evacuation notices issued by BMC or MHADA though have caused fear; have been generally ignored by occupiers. Neither repairs nor evacuations are materialized and residents continue to live in such dangerous buildings waiting to collapse. 

The major leap in the area of saving lives of tenants of such unsecured buildings, the BMC, under the shelter of law, can now force-evict residents of private buildings which are in most dilapidated condition endangering the lives of its residents. The Bombay High Court has cleared Civic Body's guidelines with principle recommendation that mandates a week's notice to evict such unsafe residents. The Bombay High Court has issued guiding principles for clas­sification of dilapidated buildings, eviction, demolition and rehabilita­tion of occupants of such buildings. 

The BMC had filed a petition emphasizing difficulties it faced in implementation of notices issued to such residents of unsafe buildings under Section 354 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act under which the BMC can evict occupants of pri­vately-owned dilapidated buildings and demolish the precari­ous structures. 

The petition was with regard to South Mumbai based buildings in the C-1 Category that was referred to highly dangerous and di­lapidated structures. It was revealed that in Mumbai, there are presently 1,236 C-l Cate­gory buildings out of which 828 buildings are pri­vately owned. 

In view of the fact that in many of such buildings, the tenants are residing and are unwilling to vacate the premises in spite of the fact that the buildings being risky to stay anymore and likely to collapse and would cause loss of human lives including of those residents refusing to vacate and because of the inaction on the part of the owners of such unsafe buildings neglecting the periodical repairs, it became necessary for BMC to approach the Bombay High Court and get the said order passed. 

The Bombay High Court's go-ahead signal to the BMC's course of proposed action will enable the Civic Body to evict the occu­pants of C-l category buildings including state and corporation-owned as well as privately-owned ones, within seven days of issuing a no­tice under Section 354. If occupants refuse to vacate the premises, the police would use nominal force to assist the BMC to get the residents vacated. It has been stressed that this order is necessitated es­sentially to make Section 354 MMC Act ef­fective and to see that human lives are not in any manner compro­mised. 

The strategy worked out is that the BMC will inspect such dangerous build­ings and identify as highly dangerous and will issue seven days notice to occupants to vacate. The BMC then shall disconnect water, gas and power supply to the building. After the eviction, the BMC shall initiate demolition of such hazardous buildings.

However, the Bombay High Court specifically emphasized that the police may use such force as is reasonably necessary to re­move such occupants along with their be­longings from the said premises, without causing damage to their movables. 

The BMC had contended that in the absence of any specific provision as in the MMC Act for re­moval or evacuation of occupants of dilapidated buildings and to make it effective and practically workable con­sidering the human problems, it was necessary to issue certain guide­lines. The guidelines, approved by the State Government were submit­ted to the Bombay High Court on June 20th, 2014 for its approval and implementation thereof. 

However, the BMC in its guidelines, covered the right of evicted occupants that such evicted tenants or occupiers or the owner himself if residing in the building, will be enti­tled to reoccupy the premises in re­spect of the same area after the re­construction of the building, subject to the prevalent provisions of law pertaining to redevelopment of the property or subject to any arrange­ment or agreement arrived at by and between such tenants or occupiers with the owner of the building. 

According to the guidelines, if the building that needs to be pulled down is owned by BMC, it will have to provide an alternate accommoda­tion to its occupants till the building is restructured. If it is a privately-owned building under the cessed category, the Maharashtra Hous­ing and Development Authority (MHADA) or the Maharashtra Buildings Re­pair and Reconstruction Board (MBRRB) will provide transit accommodation to the evicted occupants of the build­ing. 

In case of privately-owned buildings, the BMC will not issue a Commencement Certificate to redevelop the structure unless beforehand, a permanent alternate accommoda­tion is provided to the erstwhile oc­cupants of the building or a settle­ment is arrived at between the occupants and the owners.