MUMBAI: The Bombay high court has lambasted the BMC for razing a portion of a gymnasium on an over 16,000sqft piece of land in Bandra (W) despite its general order restraining it from carrying out demolitions during the Covid-19 lockdown. The BMC had given the land on lease to a private trust.
“You were not supposed to demolish. How could you demolish the structure?” questioned a bench of Justice Ramesh Dhanuka and Justice V G Bisht on February 4.
The court heard a petition by the Bandra Physical Culture Association on St Martin Road challenging the November 2 demolition and a January 21 notice to take possession of the land on February 8. The high court on October 29 had suo motu directed the BMC not to initiate any action against any person suffering orders of dispossession, demolition or eviction passed by public authorities till December 21. The order was extended till January 31.
The trust’s petition said the gymnasium was functioning since 1925. Its land was leased to it by the Bandra municipality for recreational purposes. In 1947 the lease was made permanent subject to allowing it to be kept open to the public. After the erstwhile Bandra municipality came under the BMC, the lease was continued for Re 1 annually. In February 2000, the BMC issued a show-cause notice over non-access to the public. In March 2000 it revoked the lease. The trust moved the City Civil Court, which restrained the BMC from taking action. In 2006 a new lease was issued. In 2008, the BMC issued a second show-cause notice alleging breaches. It issued a demolition notice in September 2017 and in October 2017 a speaking order declaring the structure unauthorised. On March 3 last year, a demolition notice was issued, which the trust was unaware of due to the lockdown.
In view of the state’s unlock phase 5 guidelines, in October-end gymnasiums were allowed to reopen. On November 2, the BMC carried out the demolition and damaged equipment worth Rs 10 lakh. The petition said the BMC was “acting as an agent of some third party”. When the BMC advocate said there were violations of the lease and therefore it was terminated, Justice Dhanuka retorted: It is your creation.”
The trust’s advocate Kuber Wagle said the municipal corporation cannot dispossess it without a hearing.

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