Mumbai, Feb 26 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Saturday said the right to livelihood enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to live in safe buildings and houses and that the owner of the structure, whether private or a public body, had a constitutional obligation to ensure this safety.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni passed its judgment on a public interest litigation taken up suo motu (on its own) following a series of building collapses in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra.
The court in the petition also took note of illegal structures mushrooming across the state.
The court said such incidents, where people lose their lives due to building collapses, need to be eradicated completely. “Right to livelihood includes the right to live in safe buildings and houses. … in these matters of dilapidated and ruinous buildings there is no scope whatsoever to accept the situation that the occupants live in uncertainty and risk their lives,” the court said.
Whoever is the owner of the building, private or a public body, had a constitutional obligation to ensure safety of the structure so that lives of the occupants are not endangered, the high court said.
The bench, in its order, said a mechanism needs to be set up wherein the concerned civic or state officers would enforce, within their jurisdiction, an audit of buildings as required by law and those buildings that are notified as dilapidated can be vacated.
On the issue of illegal constructions, the court said strong arms of law are required to punish the disorderly. “Strong arms of law are required to save human lives. Safety of building premises is paramount so that lives are not endangered. Chaotic state of affairs of mushrooming of slums on every possible open land can be avoided by mass public housing schemes,” the court said. “It cannot be overlooked that in a city as large as Mumbai, migrant workforce is indispensable and perennially required. In contemporary situations, no thought is given by authorities for mass housing,” the court said, adding that the situation would worsen in future if timely action was not taken. “There is a need for planned cities and not to create unplanned and chaotic towns. We cannot expect citizens to languish in filthy, unhygienic slums and have animal existence,” the court said.
It added that the reason behind such illegal buildings coming up and people residing in them was the connivance between municipal and state officials. “It is for such a reason and with a sense of concern for our fellow citizens we have impressed the important role of the municipal and the state officers in the scheme of appearing to be extra-ordinarily vigilant and prevent building collapses,” the bench said.
The high court said corruption in municipal governance should be brought to book, as it is only then “there can be a ray of hope and sunshine for the future generations”.