Erring NMC, NIT officers under High Court scanner

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Aug 2017 10:10:12


Staff Reporter,

High Court hints at tough action against those responsible for allowing illegal constructions near high tension line ignoring mandatory prohibition

Officers of Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) and Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) along with elected representatives who approved and encouraged 141 illegal constructions near high tension lines within city areas are likely to come under fire, as the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday sought the list of such individuals without whose patronage or official approval such constructions were not possible.

A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Arun Upadhye, while hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) about electrocution deaths of two tiny tots due to high tension lines situated dangerously close to residential units, concurred with Amicus Curiae Shreerang Bhandarkar, who wondered as to who permitted these 141 dangerous constructions where any mishap can occur. The High Court has directed NMC and NIT to furnish such a list of officers and elected representatives, thereby virtually putting them on notice.

The High Court has already directed virtual attachment of the properties of M/s Armors Builders and its proprietor Anand Khobragade while directing him not to create any third party interest or alienate the properties.

During last hearing, the builder Anand Khobragade furnished a list of 133 properties in the name of firm M/s Armors owned by him and six properties owned by his wife and requested not to attach his properties, but this request was turned down by the High Court.

Death of two twins-Priyansh and Piyush Dhar in Sugat Nagar after they accidentally touched the high tension lines had led to public uproar. Both cute kids were hospitalised but could not survive.

The third death at Hingna of a five years old boy Swayam Pande had also shocked everyone and badly exposed the existence of high tension lines very near to residential localities exposing the flawed planning process and absolute lack of co-ordination between various agencies. Apart from laying high tension line dangerously near the residential localities to granting sanctions to schools, colleges and localities beneath high tension lines, lot of complicated issues are involved in this matter.

On June 22, the High Court took suo motu cognisance of shocking deaths of these kids due to electrocution from high tension line and had issued notice to power utilities, civic agencies and urban development department seeking their response to this shocking lapse.

In his well-researched petition, Amicus Curiae Shreerang Bhandarkar has pointed out complete lack of co-ordination between Power utilities, NMC, NIT and Town Planning Department and how they are trying to blame each other on this issue. High tension lines were erected first and area near it was declared as no development zone. There are 24 danger spots where high tension lines pass through and over the schools and buildings.

The PIL has demanded to fix the responsibility for irregularities, illegalities, corrupt practices and dereliction of statutory duties on respondent authorities with a further direction to immediately provide safety and protective devices pertaining to high tension lines and also normal electricity lines installed with insulated material. The PIL has also demanded immediate conversion of overhead electricity lines into underground cabling and sought a definite time-frame.

Apart from appointing a committee of experts, the PIL also suggested public awareness and visit to educational institutions about the risk posed by nearby high tension lines. The PIL also suggested to remove illegal constructions, hutments, tenements which have mushroomed on the government lands to rule out further accidents of this nature and demanded a compensation of Rs 1 crore each for the valuable lives lost.

During earlier hearings, NMC and Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), had blamed the alleged unauthorised construction and dangerously close location of high tension lines to open galleries for deaths of two kids due to electrocution. In an affidavit filed before Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, the MSEDCL claimed that high tension lines existed in the area prior to construction. The building was constructed in later point of time. As per rule, at least 3.70 mt distance should have been maintained between building and power line, but it was violated at Sugat Nagar.

Interestingly, NMC, in its affidavit, had also claimed that it passed building plan of Armors Builders by directing him to leave minimum 4 mts distance between two buildings, but he left only 2.10 mt gap and constructed 1 mt wide gallery due to which there was hardly any distance between the construction and high tension lines. However, the NMC authorities failed to explain lack of any action in last one decade against such unauthorised construction.

Toeing the same line even MSEDCL has now passed entire blame on builder while absolving all its officers, who apparently turned a Nelson’s eye when the area was under their jurisdiction and is now with power franchisee-SNDL since 2011. The NIT in its affidavit stated that area falls under NMC’s jurisdiction and stated that 300 potentially dangerous spots exists in city where power supply line are situated very close to residential units.

The High Court will consider composition of an expert committee to conduct verification of 141 dangerous sites where high tension line is situated in dangerous proximity to residential units or criss-cross schools posing a grave and permanent danger to residents and small children. This is necessary to fix the responsibility of agency and individuals responsible for such a shocking lapse. High Court also asked to include one retired Principal District Judge rank judicial officer in the panel.

Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar (Amicus Curiae), Senior Counsel S K Mishra (Armors Builder), Officiating GP Anand Fulzele (State) Adv A M Quazi (MSEDCL), Adv D M Kale (MSETCL), Adv Shridhar Purohit (MERC), Adv Girish Kunte (NIT), Adv Sudhir Puranik (NMC) appeared in the matter.