Questioning the Maharashtra government's delay in demolishing illegal private structures along the beachfront at Alibaug in Raigad district, the Bombay High Court asked the state on Wednesday why it was hesitant to pull down such properties.
The observation came after the state informed a bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar it was yet to demolish many such structures owing to several injunction orders passed by the lower courts, protecting such properties.
The bench, however, noted that the state had made similar submissions on the last date of hearing on June 4 this year.
It also noted it had passed an order at that time, directing the state to make applications before the lower courts asking that orders to maintain status quo on such structures be vacated.
It had also sought, at the time, details of the 111 such orders that the state claimed had been passed by various lower courts protecting such properties.
According to the submissions made by the state on June 4, a total of 159 properties have been served demolition notices by the Alibaug district authorities as they violated construction and coastal zone norms. Of these, 24 structures have already been demolished, while 111 properties have obtained orders requiring status quo to be maintained.
On Wednesday, the state's counsel Manish Pable told the high court that some of its applications seeking that the status quo orders be vacated had been dismissed.
He also said that such properties that did not have any court orders protecting them would be demolished within the next eight weeks.
At this, the bench said, "Do you know that there exist case laws to prove ownership of land and encroachment? Have you cited any such case laws to get the status quo orders vacated?"
"Why do you hesitate to use the bulldozer (to demolish illegal structure) when you have orders in your favour," the bench asked the state.
Questioning how rampant illegal construction could be permitted to continue, the HC said, "We live in a free nation, but free nation does not mean muft ka nation (A country where everything is free). This is like a loot here."
The court directed the state to begin demolishing such illegal properties that do not have any protective orders in their favour. It also directed the state to place on record the details of all status quo orders passed in favour of the illegal structures by the lower courts.
The high court has been hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) since 2009, alleging several "wealthy persons" have constructed bungalows and private structures along the beaches in Alibaug in violation of the state's and coastal zone authority's norms.
The PIL, filed by activist Surendra Dhavale, had urged the court to direct the authorities to demolish all unauthorised constructions in several villages in Alibaug.
Such structures included a beach-side bungalow owned by fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi. The bungalow was demolished by the local authorities following the HC's previous orders.