January 7, 2017 3:04:43 am
The Bombay High Court Friday held that staff quarters constructed by the Centre, Maharashtra government, or municipal bodies are public properties and no court can allow any public property to be taken over by private citizens. The High Court was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by over 1,500 retired employees of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) who had challenged an eviction notice issued by the civic body.
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These employees have been staying in quarters allotted to them by the BMC during their service tenure and have refused to vacate them even after retirement. Some of these quarters are occupied by the families of such former employees even though the original occupants are no longer employees of BMC or in some cases even alive.
“Government officers or bureaucrats must realise that they are mere public servants and have no authority over the state’s properties or assets,” said the court. The quarters that are under contention are permanent and semi-permanent units that the civic body constructed over the years in suburbs such as Vikhroli and Goregaon.
Appearing for the BMC, senior counsel Anil Sakhare said that in the 1990s, owing to space crunch, the BMC had come out with a policy and decided against giving any permanent tenancy or ownership rights of its staff quarters.
The petitioners argued that several of them had been living in these quarters since the 1960s or 70s and many were mere class III or class IV employees who couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. They further stated that since a few of them have permanent tenancy rights, all cases be treated on parity and all of them be granted ownership. The High Court said granting any relief would suggest that the court was “validating illegal retention of public property”.
The court asked the BMC to help rehabilitate such petitioners who were not in a position to fend for themselves.
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