Campa Cola residents thwart attempts to cut off supplies

Last Updated 20 June 2014, 15:12 IST

Defiant Campa Cola residents today thwarted attempts by municipal authorities to cut off essential supplies to the illegal flats, blocking their entry into the compound by locking up the gates and forming human barricades.

With the deadline set by authorities for vacating the flats ending today, officials of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai descended on the Campa Cola compound this morning with a large police contingent in tow, only to be greeted with closed gates and women pleading with folded hands, asking them to go away.

High drama was witnessed as MCGM officials argued with implacable residents of the upscale housing society in Worli to let them in amid repeated chants of "we want justice".

The authorities, who intended to cut off electricity, water and piped gas supplies to 102 illegal flats in the premises as part of their plan to force the occupants to vacate before demolition could be undertaken, beat a retreat after two failed attempts to convince the residents and said they would try again tomorrow.

Having met with failure, the municipal authorities would try and convince the residents again before thinking of using force to evict them.

"We will try to talk to the residents 2-3 times more and make them understand the importance of the Supreme Court order. If they do not relent, we might use force to carry out the court's orders," Mohan Adtani, Additional Municipal Commissioner told PTI.

Adtani said MCGM will also file a contempt petition in the Supreme Court in the next few days.

"We have video-recorded the entire proceedings today. We now have proof in our hands. We are mulling the idea of filing a contempt petition in the Supreme Court in the next couple of days," he added.

Adtani said that the MCGM will, however, not wait for the court to pass an order before force is used against the residents.

"The police will also file a complaint against the residents under IPC Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty)," he said.

As a high-pitch drama played out, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan ruled out enacting a law to regularise the illegal flats but said he was amenable to considering a remedial compromise formula if it was brought by the residents.

He, however, said the Supreme Court had while ordering the demolition ruled that the government will not intervene.

"If illegal constructions are to be spared by a law, it would imply that other such irregular works too can be saved in a similar way. Does it mean that those who constructed buildings in compliance with rules and regulations are making a mistake,? he told reporters in Pune.

Noting that no remedial compromise formula had been brought before him by the affected residents that could be considered for a solution to the problem, Chavan said, "I am still ready to give a thought if any such proposal is brought."

Meanwhile, in a U-turn, the Campa Cola Housing Society told the Bombay High court today that it is ready to file a fresh plea for deemed land conveyance before the Deputy Registrar of Cooperative Societies and to make Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai(MCGM) a party.

The MCGM had moved the court against Deputy Registrar granting deemed conveyance of the land to the society of which it has claimed ownership. The municipal body had said deemed conveyance was granted to the society without hearing it.

If the court rules in favour of the society having got deemed conveyance, it may have a bearing on its efforts for seeking regularisation of illegally constructed flats.

The Supreme Court had on June 3 dismissed the plea of the residents of illegal flats in the Campa Cola Housing Society against an earlier order asking them to vacate their premises by May 31.

The bench had also rejected the submission that at least the illegal flats be not demolished till the time the apex court decides the curative petition of residents association in the case.

With state assembly elections round the corner, a number of RPI workers carrying party flags were seen outside the compound and raised slogans in unison with the residents who conducted a 'Havan' seeking divine intervention.

BJP leader Shaina N C, who was seen engaged in animated discussions with the municipal authorities and flat occupants, slammed Chief Minister Chavan for not using his statutory powers to regularise the flats.

"The CM has not used his statutory powers to regularise the flats. There are thousands of illegal buildings in Mumbai which have not been demolished. Several options such as penalties can be considered (for regularisation)," she said.

Notwithstanding the threat of use of force by the municipal authorities the residents have decided to dig in their heels and resist attempts at eviction.

"We would never want to go against the court's orders, but we can in no way let our homes be demolished in front of our eyes. We urge the CM to intervene in the matter and regularise our flats within the legal limits," Jigar Doshi, a resident of Campa Cola said.

"We have nowhere else to go. Monsoon has set in and they (municipal authorities) have stopped us even from erecting tents in the compound," another resident complained.
(Published 20 June 2014, 14:29 IST)

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