SC Urges Safety Audit for Bombay HC, Expedites New Building Plans

Bombay HC_LegallySpeaking

The Supreme Court on Tuesday acknowledged concerns regarding the safety of the 150-year-old Bombay High Court building and the necessity for additional space. It directed the Maharashtra government to promptly conduct a safety audit of the heritage structure.

Special Bench

A special bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud along with Justices B R Gavai and J B Pardiwala also directed the government to expedite the creation of drawings for the designated site intended for the construction of a new high court building in Mumbai.

Noting that the state government must act promptly to meet the requirements for facilities in the high court, the bench urged the state Public Works Department (PWD) to take up the matter seriously. It further suggested that the high court collaborate with the state PWD and other relevant entities to expedite the drawing process.”

The bench, emphasizing the imperative of upholding the structural integrity of the existing premises, directed the State PWD to promptly conduct a safety audit and report back on the measures taken at the next hearing.

BCA President’s letter

The apex court, exercising its suo motu jurisdiction, acknowledged an April 29 letter petition from Nitin Thakker, President of the Bombay Bar Association, and other bar leaders. The case was titled ‘Heritage Building of the Bombay High Court and allotment of additional lands for the High Court’.

“The court’s assumption of suo motu jurisdiction is based on the urgent need for accommodation for the High Court of judicature at Bombay. The current building, 150 years old, lacks adequate facilities. The High Court has approved the Maharashtra government’s proposal for land at Bandra East in Mumbai,” the bench noted.

It was highlighted that a portion of the land earmarked for the new high court building in Bandra is currently occupied by government housing colonies.

The state government’s resolution, issued in March 2023, is in progress, with steps being taken to transfer vacant possession of the land to the high court, according to the state government’s advocate general, Birendra Saraf.

“We are cognizant of the humanitarian aspects involved, as staff colonies exist on the government land and occupants will need to be relocated,” the bench remarked.

“We believe that the state government must act promptly regarding high court facilities. The need for additional space for the high court and chambers is pressing,” the bench emphasized, noting the necessity for additional space near the present high court building in south Mumbai’s Fort area for effective functioning.

Acknowledging the assurance provided by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who supported the necessity for a new high court building in Mumbai, the bench urged him to utilize his resources to find a solution.

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) clarified that the Supreme Court’s intervention would not impede proceedings before the Bombay High Court.

Hearing in Bombay HC

In April, the Bombay High Court instructed the Maharashtra PWD to investigate the availability of land in suburban Goregaon for the new HC complex and furnish a preliminary sketch of its accessibility from the proposed coastal road.

The high court stated it would not hinder the government from declaring the presently allotted land at Bandra (East) as a special area for a “public project of vital importance,” expressing dissatisfaction with the delay in handing over vacant possession of the 30.13-acre land in Bandra (East).

While the Goregaon (West) land was previously rejected due to accessibility issues, the high court suggested reconsidering it in light of the proposed coastal road.

The high court was addressing a contempt petition by lawyer Ahmed Abdi, alleging the government’s non-compliance with a 2018 high court order regarding land allotment.

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