MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Friday directed the collector (suburbs) to list steps for demolition of 48 obstacles in the aircraft approach path to the runway at the airport in Santacruz in less than a month.
These include upper floors of houses, structures like huts on hills and even a light on a hoarding on a footbridge. The approach path is an aerial space earmarked near airports for safe takeoff and landing of aircraft.
"Let us begin with 48 obstacles from 10 years ago," said Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand Karnik. These were among 137 identified in a 2010-11 survey by MIAL, the airport operator. The DGCA, after hearing the owners, had passed final demolition orders for 63. Owners of nine appealed and six complied. DGCA sent the remaining 48, at Vile Parle (E), Kurla (W) Santacruz (W) and Ghatkopar (W), to the collector for necessary action but they are yet to be removed.
HC seeks flight path demolition plan by August 22, raps collector
The collector (suburbs), in response to a Bombay high court poser on obstacles to the city airport approach area on July 25, 2022, said the BMC should carry out the demolition in Mumbai as it is the planning authority under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966. The BMC pointed out that under the Aircraft (demolition of obstructions caused by buildings and trees, etc) Rules, 1994, it is the collector's responsibility.
The judges agreed and said the 1994 rules empower the district collector to remove obstructions. Friday's HC instruction to the collector was passed after a 2019 PIL by advocate Yeshwanth Shenoy on the danger highrises near the airport pose to aircraft. Ironically, the Airports Authority of India's guesthouse is among them.
State's advocate Manish Pabale said it is the first time the BMC has said it's not authorised; it was not pointed out in the 2018 meetings where demolition was agreed on. Moreover, the collector does not have the necessary machinery in Mumbai.
The judges said nothing prevented the collector from taking action. "Start by disconnecting electricity and water... Where you get the machinery is your headache. Corporation will assist you," said the CJ.
In the order, the judges said once Rule 8 envisages that it is the district collector who would be responsible for demolition of obstacles, "we do not approve of the collector's attempt to pass on the responsibility to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai". They noted that the BMC is willing to provide assistance. "We, therefore, hold that it is the district collector who needs to proceed with demolition of obstacles in accordance with provisions contained in Rule 8 of Aircraft Rules, 1994," the order said.
They directed the collector "to personally affirm an affidavit and indicate the roadmap as well as plan(s)/step(s)/measure(s) for demolition of those 48 identified obstacles which do not enjoy any protection of either any appellate order of the DGCA or a judicial order of this court". The affidavit has to be placed on August 22.
On a suggestion by senior advocate Vikram Nankani, for MIAL, the judges directed that other planning authorities like SRA and Mhada "shall provide all requisite assistance (to the collector) to give full effect to this order".
Shenoy gave a demonstration on the impact of obstacles on aircraft movement on an airport model. "India has 84 airports. No airport is as infested as Mumbai,'' he said. After his PIL, most obstacles near Delhi airport were cleared within six months, he pointed out.