HC orders demolition of illegal city high-rises

CBI directed to initiate probe against MUDA officials

SHILLONG: In a landmark judgement, the High Court of Meghalaya has initiated multiple actions including the order to demolish the additional floors of several out of the 24 listed buildings constructed beyond ground floor plus 3, CBI probe against MUDA officers who granted permission to construct such buildings, and the need to widen the probe into many other buildings after seizing documents from the office of MUDA.
In the 123-page order, the Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice TNK Singh has set a 15-day deadline for the demolition of additional floors (above G+3), while the CBI has to submit its report by October 15.
The Court directed the CBI to immediately intiate inquiry against MUDA officials who granted permission for the construction of the buildings.
The Court order said that all the illegal floors must be demolished by the Meghalaya Urban Development Authority (MUDA) which shall seek the assistance of the Deputy Commissioner (Revenue), East Khasi Hills, district Superintendent of Police and if need be para military force during the demolition drive.
There is a good news for Islamia Secondary School as the court  observed that the respondent had not yet constructed the additional floor i.e. G+4 and accordingly, demolition of the ongoing construction is not required. However, the MUDA is to examine as to whether the construction of the building is as per the plan approved by it.
According to order, the entire expense incurred in demolishing the illegal floors shall be borne by the private respondents. (Full list on P-10)
“Seals of the buildings of the private respondents are to be broken only for the purpose of demolishing the illegally constructed floors. Both the DC (Revenue) and SP shall ensure maintenance of security as well as law and order during the demolition drive of the illegally constructed floors of the buildings in question,” the order said.
The Court said that the MUDA shall not issue completion certificate under Byelaw 9 and occupancy certificates under Byelaw 10, till the floors illegally constructed by the private respondents are completely demolished.
“Moreover, interim orders passed earlier shall stand merged with this final judgment and order,” the Court order added.
The order also said that the CBI shall register preliminary enquiry against the officers of MUDA who granted permissions for construction to the concerned respondents and by their acts of commission and omission benefitted the respondents and also others whose buildings could not be brought to the notice of the Court during the consideration of this case.
The order further said that the CBI shall also proceed against such 123 builders and other persons who have been or were likely to be benefitted by such acts of commission and omission on the part of the officers of MUDA during the course of enquiry.
“The CBI is also directed to find out from the records of MUDA, as to, apart from the instant cases, in how many more such cases of illegal constructions presently existing in the city, the building owners/builders have been benefitted by the acts of commission and omission on the part of officers of MUDA and the report shall be submitted to the Court on October 15,” order said.
Earlier, the court observed that Shillong Town is on the slope of the hill and more than 90 per cent of the buildings are constructed on the adverse terrain (higher hill slope) and buildings are highly unsaved in Shillong agglomeration area.
While observing that landslide is the common feature in Shillong Town, the order said major portion of the hill in Shillong are loose soil.
“Shillong Town is totally different from Guwahati city located at the plain area,” the order observed.
“In 1897, there was an earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale which shook Shillong resulting in about 1,542 deaths. The situation then was one in which Shillong was not the urban jungle that it is now. The Govt. of Meghalaya as well as the MUDA, the competent authority for granting permission for construction of buildings, admitted that the State of Meghalaya falls in seismic Zone-5,” the order said.
After a photographic representation Shillong city the Court observed that the earthquake of magnitude of 8.7 like the one in 1897 may strike at any time. “In case it so happens, the number of deaths will be several thousand since the multi-storied buildings are all constructed at the hill slope or in the gradient of the hill slope of loose soil.”
Stating that the emergence of multi-storied buildings within and around Shillong had increased the risk of earthquakes the Division Bench observed that it was unimaginable as to how the State Government was still issuing building permissions/clearance certificates for construction of high rise buildings.
The order said that the construction/erection of high rise buildings/RCC/multi-storied buildings/sky scraper buildings in and around Shillong city is controlled by the Meghalaya Building Byelaws, 2011, and the MUDA is to ensure that the provisions contained in the Byelaws, 2011 are upheld and adhered to in granting permissions for construction of buildings.
The petitioners -Advocate J.M. Thangkhiew, Advocate Gilbert Anthony Dkhar, Advocate Rijiedlang Kharsyad  and Advocate Lalsolomon Darnei– had submitted that the threat of inevitable earthquakes (whether mild/strong) would lead to the collapse giving way of weak and structurally unstable buildings that are in plenty in and around Shillong area thereby leading to huge loss.
The order also added that  Shillong city is a hill station and most of the houses built in the past were Assam Type Houses; those houses even though they are susceptible to tremors traversing through the area are less likely to cause catastrophic damage in the event of an earthquake arising.
It was on April 23  this year that the district administration sealed 12 buildings belonging to Narayan Prasad Jhunjhunwala (Police Bazaar), Nilesh Tibrewalla (Thana Road), Satyabrato Baidya (Jail Road), Ajit Das Gupta (Jail Road), Bidur Das (Jail Road), Uday N Shukla (Oakland Road), Rajkumari Sinha (Bivar Road), Mentok Ri-Project Pvt. Ltd (Bivar Road), Maruf Elahi (Bivar Road), Beroline Khongshei (Laban), Mohendro Rapsang (Keating Road) and Saini Pala (Motinagar).
Later, 12 more buildings were listed for violation of the Meghalaya Building Byelaws, 2011.
The 12 affected parties are Sanjib Das (GS Road, Police Bazar), Manchin Fincon Pvt Ltd (Jail Road), Kenneth M Lyngdoh (Bivar Road), Sanjay Jhunjhunwala (Bivar Road), Modrick Nongkynrih (Bishop Cotton Road), BD Marbaniang (Demseniong), Lamboklang Mylliemngap (Motinagar), Dr TA Sohklet (Lummawrie), Allenwood Swer (Fire Brigade), Secretary of Islamia Secondary School (GS Road, Police Bazar), P Dkhar (Laban) and Nicolas Wallang (Boyce Road).

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