The Bombay High Court ordered vacation of the premises of a transit building holding that transit buildings are temporary and not subject to the same laws as permanent structures. The Court case involved four Petitioners who appeared in court in 2018, claiming that their water and electricity services were disconnected due to notices under Section 354 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 (MMC Act), stating that their occupied premises were dilapidated and needed to be demolished.

A Division Bench of Justice G.S. Patel and Justice Kamal Khata observed that, “Transit buildings are by the very nature of their construction and by structural design temporary and not meant to last beyond three to five years. There is no question of repairs or of these buildings being made permanent. Even the planning permissions that are granted for transit buildings are not granted in the same manner or subject to the same stringent requirements as they are for permanent constructions. We have only a few days ago noted that the attempt to apply the law on the TAC in structural audits to transit buildings is not only an inversion of law but is a perversion of the law. We do not propose to allow it.”

The initial petition did not clearly state the basis for the occupants' right to the premises, whether as tenants or otherwise. It also mentioned a redevelopment proposal without clarifying the occupants' legal right to initiate such a redevelopment. The property owners were not initially part of the case but were joined later due to their intervention. The court had granted an interim order in 2018 for the reconnection of power and water supply, with occupants allowed to stay at their own risk. In 2022, an interim application sought to vacate the 2018 order.

Advocate Anand Mishra appeared for the Petitioners and Senior Advocate Ashish Kamat appeared for Respondents.

It was revealed that the occupants were in a transit building, which has a temporary lifespan. The Court found that the application wasn't pursued until 2021 and that the developer and property owners were not actively involved.

The Court discovered that out of 103 tenants, only 18 remained in the transit building, while others were in alternate accommodations or MHADA camps. The original developer was Jankie Developers, and the development agreement with the property owners was terminated by the owners, not the tenants.

The Court emphasized that transit buildings are temporary and not subject to the same laws as permanent structures, rejecting the application of certain legal principles to transit buildings. The owners offered the 18 remaining occupants a choice between permanent alternate accommodations or transit accommodations with specified terms.

The Court expressed frustration with repeated adjournment requests and the lack of concern for fellow citizens. It emphasized the need for the four Petitioners' presence in court and the urgency of resolving the case.

“These are only 18 of 103 people and the future prospects, homes, dreams, livelihoods and futures of the others are jeopardised by these 18 people — at precisely zero cost to themselves. Without paying a single rupee out of their pockets, they have sat on an ad inteirm order from 25th May 2018 right till 2023 and for no good reason. That has to end. We do not know what has happened to the people of this city that they no longer have the slightest concern about their own neighbours and others in their society. There are dozens of others who are out on transit rent or in transit accommodation and are forced to stay there indefinitely. Already, five years are lost, possibly for no fault of these tenants; but their continued obstruction only heaps on further delay.”

The Court rejected the argument that tenants have a right to choose developers or dictate redevelopment terms, stating that these four Petitioners could not speak for others. The Court set a timeline for the occupants to vacate the premises and warned that failure to comply would lead to enforcement through a Court Receiver and disconnection of utilities.

The Court requested specific information about the occupants and alternative sites for relocation. The Court planned for the building to be vacated by a specific date. The Court mentioned that separate directions would be provided for alleged arrears.

The matter was scheduled for the next hearing on August 25, 2023 by the High Court.

Cause Title: Mohan Yeshwant Padawe & Ors. v. The State Of Maharashtra & Ors., 910-OSWP-2737-2018.DOC