A Division Bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and B P Colabawalla of the Bombay High Court while hearing a contempt petition filed by a city-based developer alleging that the BMC had not complied with the previous order of the High Court pulled up a lawyer for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for stating incorrect facts in a case concerning demolition of illegal structures.
A contempt plea was filled by a city-based developer alleging that the BMC had not complied with the previous order of the High Court. The Civic Body had filed an affidavit in November, last year, stating that it is unable to demolish 6 out of 34 structures due to an order passed by the City Civil Court, Mumbai directing the Corporation to maintain status quo. Recording the submission a Panel Counsel of the Corporation had submitted that the City Civil Court has been hearing the matter and that it had kept the next hearing on January 15, 2020 and the High Court adjourned the matter after directing the City Civil Court to pass necessary orders so that the High Court could decide on the writ petition before it. The petitioners later informed the Court that the submission made by the BMC Panel Counsel was incorrect, since the said Notice of Motion was already disposed of by the Civil Court in October, 2015 i.e. over four years back due to which the directions were not implemented. The BMC counsel also admitted to the mistake. She informed the High Court that it is only on January 15 that she realised that she had made the error.
The Court however refused the acceptance by the organisation owing to such a failure.
- The Court was informed many of the empanelled Advocates are no longer interested in accepting the briefs from the Corporation.
- The Court was informed that given the urgency in some of the matters, the in-house lawyers are now distributing briefs amongst panel lawyers instead of the Senior Law Officer and/or the Deputy Law Officer.
- The Bench remarking stated that, they do not understand what is the urgency in the matters when 99% of the matters taken up during the week are listed on the Weekly Board which is made available every weekend.
- The peculiar turn of events prompted the Bench to observe that this is not the first time that the assistance given by panel advocates have been found to be unsatisfactory.
- The Court further observed that said Counsel had no answer to offer when asked about the delay in rectifying the mistake.
Taking critical note of the apparent disinterest among empanelled advocates of the BMC, the Court also suggested that the Civic Body to immediately replace its junior counsel with the fresh lot for the better functioning of its Legal Department. The High Court has posted matter for further hearing on February 10.
Taking cognisance of this state of affairs, the Court asked the Civic Body to immediately invite applications from lawyers interested in being part of the Junior Panel. The Bench also directed the Corporation to prepare a fresh list of Junior Panel Advocates after the said selection process and added that if this is not done immediately the problems arising from time to time in matters will continue and will compel us to summon the Commissioner of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and appraise him of the present state of affairs.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
- Case of Spark Developers and another vs. State of Maharashtra and others, ordinary original civil jurisdiction contempt petition no. 8 of 2018 in writ petition no. 3023 of 2016, decided by High Court of Judicature of Bombay on January 24, 2020.