STATE TIMES NEWS JAMMU: Justice Rajesh Bindal of J&K High Court directed Jammu Municipal Corporation to carry out some exercise to find out if there are any dilapidated buildings in the city, which pose danger to the lives of the people living therein or the neighbourhood and take appropriate steps to prevent any untoward incident. This landmark judgment has been passed in a petition filed by two petitioners claiming that they are tenants in occupation of the shops in the building, which has been ordered to be demolished by the Municipal Corporation, Jammu as the same have been declared unsafe. Justice Rajesh Bindal after hearing both the sides in length observed that vide impugned public notice issued by the Municipal Corporation, general public, owner/occupier of the building in question were informed that the building had been declared unsafe by various agencies and the Corporation has granted permission for demolishing the same vide impugned order dated November 16, 2017. The aforesaid date was clarified by the counsel for the Corporation to be November 6, 2017. Coming to the background thereof, it may be added that the claim of the owner of the building is that the building in question is more than 100 years old. This fact is not seriously disputed as the part of the building had fallen and apprehension of the owner of the building is that it may fall at any time. The request was made to the Corporation on November 29, 2006 for declaration of the building as unsafe. There is nothing on record to show that any action was taken thereon by the Corporation. Thereafter the owner of the building filed another application on July 25, 2017 reiterating his request referring to the earlier letter. Matter was referred by the Deputy Commissioner to the Chief Engineer, PWD (R&B) Construction Wing on August 1, 2017. Report was submitted by the Assistant Executive Engineer to the Executive Engineer on August 8, 2017, opining that the building is unsafe and it may fall at any time. The area around the building is densely built and populated. The report was finally sent to the Deputy Commissioner, Jammu vide letter dated August 28, 2017, who in turn forwarded the same to the Municipal Corporation for appropriate action vide letter dated August 29, 2017. It was on his report that on November 6, 2017, the Corporation had taken the action to undertake demolition of the building immediately. Thereafter communication dated December 22, 2017 was issued to the owner of the building to deposit the demolition charges to the tune of Rs. 5,41,000. The needful was done by the owner of the building on December 26, 2017.
High Court further observed that besides the report, as was sought by the Deputy Commissioner from Executive Engineer, PW (R&B) Department, Jammu, even this Court vide order dated December 17, 2018 had appointed Dinesh Kumar Rampal, Superintending Engineer as a Court Commissioner to inspect the building and submit a report regarding the status thereof. He also inspected the same on December 24, 2018 and submitted his report, along with photographs, in court on December 31, 2018, opining that the building is unsafe.
To this report, the petitioners had sought to raise objections stating that they were never informed about the date and time of inspection. “The objections are misconceived. The building to be inspected was not located at a place, which is different from the place where the petitioners are carrying on their businesses and inspection of any building could possibly be carried out only during day-time. Hence, the claim that they are ignorant about the inspection is an argument, which deserves to be rejected”, the court held.
Justice Rajesh Bindal further observed that similar is the position when the building was earlier inspected by the Assistant Executive Engineer. In fact, the petitioners very well knew that the building had been inspected. Local Commissioner was appointed by the Court in the presence of the petitioners. The petitioners have also tried to counter the earlier report of inspection by the Executive Engineer by placing on record report of the registered valuer. The same is of no relevance as the report itself states that the same is the valuation report and the person who prepared the same is a registered designer, planner and valuer approved by the Municipal Corporation. He did not assess any value of the building in the report but merely stated that the ground floor of the building appears to be safe. However, opinion of civil (Structural) engineer needs to be obtained and the aforesaid report produced by the petitioners in fact goes against them.
High Court further observed that the building which is 100 years old and in which some repairs were carried out more than four decades back cannot be said to be safe at this stage once two different reports by the engineers after inspection clearly established this fact.
High Court further observed that no doubt, the petitioners are fighting because they are in occupation thereof since long as tenants but if their rights are pitched against the lives of the people around including the petitioners, the scale will tilt in favour of the lives, which are more valuable. “We have seen many instances where old dilapidated buildings fall because of inaction by the persons concerned and then the authorities come forward for rescue operations. We should not wait for that disaster to happen”, the court observed.
High Court further observed that the argument raised that the procedure adopted by the owner of the building is just to seek eviction of the petitioners is merely to be noticed and rejected. “Nothing has been produced on record to show that the owner of the building ever initiated any other proceedings to seek their eviction”, it held.
With these observations, High Court dismissed the petitions.
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