Terming the house-crash in Mumbai’s Malad late on Wednesday – which claimed 12 lives – a “man-made disaster” and that “citizens lives are not cheap”, the Bombay High Court on Friday ordered a judicial probe into the tragedy to be completed within a fortnight.
Taking suo moto cognizance of the incident, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni admonished the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), observing that lives of citizens are not “so cheap that they can be left to die in such incidents”.
Soon after the house crashed around 11.30 pm on Wednesday, the Mumbai Police booked the tenement owner Rafique Siddiqui on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, while building contractor Ramzan Shaikh has been nabbed in connection with the incident that claimed 12 persons, comprising 9 members of a single family, and including eight minors, including a toddler.
When BMC counsel Anil Sakhare argued that the land in Malvani, Malad west where the tragedy occurred, belongs to the Collector, the Chief Justice asked if a government directive can over-ride a constitutional mandate since it obliges the BMC to work against illegal constructions.
Noting that in the past 25 days alone, there have been four building crashes – two each in Mumbai and Thane, killing a total of 24 and injuring 23 more, the bench asked: “How many more lives will be lost?”
Ordering the Commission of Enquiry to probe the tragedy and submit its report by June 23, the court warned all corporations that it would come down heavily on them if any more lives are lost in future.
Adjourning the matter, the judges made it clear they would not hesitate to order a special enquiry into the “mechanism” whereby unauthorised constructions crop up with the corporators and civic officials failing to take any action, even as Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh pointed out that 75 per cent of the constructions in Malvani are illegal.
The court asked Sakhare why the civic officers failed to take action or “were they waiting for deaths”, warning that they (the officers) would be held responsible for deaths.
It pointed out that while the BMC has performed against the Covid-19 pandemic, why are such effective steps not being taken against illegal constructions and why the elected corporators don’t point out such activities.