Bombay High Court pulls up AAI and DGCA

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Observing that both the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had scant regard for the safety of air passengers as well as citizens who live around the airports in Mumbai, the Bombay High Court issued notices to them.

A bench of Justices VM Kanade and MS Sonak also directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to initiate demolition of a private residential building near the international airport’s runway in Mumbai. The building constructed close to the runway had allegedly violated height regulations. The Court also asked the BMC to register an FIR against the developer of the project within the next 48 hours.

The said building—constructed as a redevelopment project by SAILEE developers Pvt Ltd—is currently occupied by tenants and owners. While the DGCA had permitted construction up to 19 metres, the building is 34 metres high.

The developer managed to get the requisite permissions for construction by presenting wrong facts and even after the AAI issued a notice, the developer got a stay order from the high court on demolition.

The bench, however, vacated the stay order and paved the way for the demolition.

The directions came while the bench was hearing two petitions on high rises coming up around the Santacruz airport and the Juhu aerodrome in Mumbai.

The bench asked the AAI and DGCA to conduct an immediate internal inquiry into the action taken in the past one year over navigation issues faced by aircraft due to unauthorised construction near the airports.

“You are waiting for accidents to happen. You can never take preventive action. Look at what happened in Mahad. The state has woken up only now to the need to survey all old bridges,” the bench said. “It seems that passenger safety is of no priority to you,” the bench observed.

The High Court gave two weeks to DGCA and AAI to file replies on their failure to implement the High Court’s previous order and appoint an International Civil Aviation Organisation expert to look into the issue.

Neeta Kolhatkar

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