Nagpur: Justice Avinash Gharote of Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has dismissed a series of petitions challenging the eviction of shop occupants located under a flyover opposite the Main Railway Station in Nagpur.
The eviction order was issued by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) under Section 81-B of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act. The impugned judgments, dated December 23, 2022, were passed by a Judge in appeals filed by the petitioners against the eviction order. The NMC had directed the eviction of the shop occupants to make way for the construction of a six-lane road in front of the Railway Station. The proposed road construction involves demolishing the flyover and the shops beneath it, which is deemed to be in the public interest.
The petitioners, who were originally occupants of various shops, had been promised rehabilitation by the NMC when the proposal to construct the flyover was introduced. An undertaking to this effect was recorded in a 2018 order issued by the High Court in response to a writ petition. The petitioners were assured that they would be allocated shops to be constructed below the flyover as part of the rehabilitation process.
Accordingly, after the completion of the flyover and the shops, the petitioners were allotted various shops under lease agreements with a renewal clause. They have been conducting their businesses in these shops since then. The petitioners argued that the lease agreements with renewal clauses provided them with long-term occupation guarantees and, therefore, the NMC could not invoke the plea of public interest under Section81-B of the MMC Act to evict them. However, the High Court found that the persistent traffic congestion near the railway station warranted the construction of a six-lane road to alleviate the inconvenience faced by commuters and the public at large.
The NMC, backed by a resolution passed by the General Body, decided to demolish the flyover and the shops underneath it for this purpose. The solution also stipulated the rehabilitation of the affected shop allottees. The court ruled that the larger public interest of easing traffic congestion and constructing the six-lane road outweighed the individual interests of the petitioners. It noted that the option of rehabilitation had been provided to the shop occupants, and many of them had already chosen either rehabilitation or monetary compensation.
The court stated that loss of livelihood could not be a determining factor in this case. Consequently, the High Court dismissed the petitions, upholding the eviction order issued by the NMC. Justice Gharote held that the road widening project was in the larger public interest and had reached an irreversible stage. The court refused to grant interim orders to allow the petitioners to approach the Supreme Court, as it found no merit in their claims. With the High Court’s decision, the NMC can proceed with the construction of the six-lane road, which is expected to ease traffic congestion and benefit the general populace.
Adv Anjan De represented the petitioners while Adv J B Kasat appeared for NMC.