Bombay HC Appoints Advocate Commissioners To Assist BMC And SRA To Safeguard Dhobighat Heritage Workers During Proposed Slum Development Scheme
The Bombay High Court appointed Advocates Ranjeev Carvalho and Vikramjeet Garewal as Advocate Commissioners to assist the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to safeguard the Dhobighat Heritage Workers in the midst of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme.
The Court issued directives to the BMC and SRA to submit a comprehensive report outlining the proposed implementation of mechanized drying facilities for Washermen/Rassiholders.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed that addresses the welfare of Washerman and Rassiholders, who have been practicing their trade on a specific plot with stones and cubicles for over a century. The Court, while recognizing their historical presence and the challenges posed by slum rehabilitation schemes, issued specific directives to safeguard their interests during this process.
The Court took a proactive stance by appointing Advocates Ranjeev Carvalho and Vikramjeet Garewal as Advocate Commissioners, entrusting them with the task of determining the number of affected Washermen and Rassiholders.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and comprising Justice Arif S Doctor observed, “The area of concern, in this regard, as can be pointed out are (1) that Washermen/Rassiholders are paid transit rent regularly, (2) they are also provided transit accommodation/space for drying the clothes which should be of an adequate area and (3) once the building is constructed, these Washermen/Rassiholders are provided adequate space for drying the clothes. So far as the provision for space for drying in the building, which is to come up once the scheme is completed, is concerned, though some objections appear to have been raised by certain Washermen/Rassiholders in the meeting held on 25th May, 2016, however having regard to the scarcity of space and also taking into account the rapid strides made in technology, it would be appropriate if in the building these Washermen/Rassiholders are provided with the modern mechanized facility for drying the clothes”.
Additional Government Pleader Uma Palsuledesai appeared for the State/ Respondent
The Petitioner addressed the well-being of Washermen and Rassiholders, who have been practicing their trade of washing clothes at Dhobighat Moses Road, Jacob Circle. The Washermen, operating on a particular plot with stones and cubicles for over 100 years, were granted a license by the Municipal Corporation. Notably, this plot was a heritage site. Adjacent to it is another piece of land traditionally used by Rassiholders for drying washed clothes with ropes (Rassi). The PIL concerned the surrounding utilization of this land, particularly in light of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority's involvement in the adjacent area.
The Petitioner contended that the welfare of the Washermen was not receiving regular transit rent payments and provided transit space for dying clothes was insufficient.
The Court underscored significant points of dispute, focusing on ensuring consistent payment of transit rent, providing sufficient area for drying clothes during construction, and guaranteeing appropriate space within the constructed building for drying clothes upon the conclusion of the Slum Development Scheme.
The Court recommended incorporating mechanized facilities within the building for Washermen/Rassiholders to address their drying needs.
To assess the ongoing status of transit rent payments and the sufficiency of space allocated for drying clothes, the Court appointed Advocates Ranjeev Carvalho and Vikramjeet Garewal as Advocate Commissioners. Their responsibilities include determining the number of affected Washermen/Rassiholders, with the BMC and SRA mandated to provide necessary assistance and information.
The Court instructed the developer to submit Rs. 50,000 as fees for each Advocate Commissioner to the Prothonotary and Senior Master of the Court by November 30, 2023.
Furthermore, the SRA and the developer must submit affidavits outlining the actions taken to fulfill obligations arising from the 2016 meeting. These affidavits should detail the proposed implementation of mechanized drying facilities for Washermen/Rassiholders.
Accordingly, the Court listed the matter for January 10.
Cause Title: Vijay Uma Shankar Mishra v Commissioner, MCGM