|While PMC has started pipeline work, they have not officially informed the court
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) may face contempt of court charges after failing to file a reply to a Bombay High Court (HC) notice within the given deadline, over the issue of not providing potable water to the Wanowrie-based Raheja Gardens Complex. In this case, the HC on October 4, 2012 directed PMC, one of the respondents, to file its say on or before November 5 this year, as reported by Mirror.
Residents had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on February 21 after it was revealed via an RTI query that Raheja Builders and PMC had signed a development agreement, which stated that the construction of the scheme was allowed on the condition that it was the builder’s responsibility to supply water to all buildings in the layout, instead of PMC. Legal experts are of the view that if the petitioner brings a failure to reply to the directive to the notice of the HC, it becomes a case of contempt of court, for which the HC can hold the municipal commissioner directly responsible.
The water supply department of the civic body claimed that they could not file the reply as they did not receive a copy of the order. However, the department has already started laying a drinking water pipeline near Raheja Garden and also displayed several hoardings sounding warning and progress of work, displayed along the fencing of the housing society.
A PIL was filed by the residents in a divisional bench of HC comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice VK Tahilramani stating that the builder as well as the civic body failed to provide drinking water to them. The HC has directed the builder to look into the matter and take appropriate steps. The PIL was filed by residents Prakash Walde and Mohamed Sayeed Merchant through lawyer advocate Shirin Merchant.
The municipal commissioner, Raheja Builders Group, the superintendent engineer of PMC’s water supply and drainage department and others have been made respondents. The court has listed the next hearing on November 30. Petitioner Merchant told Mirror, “PMC through its legal department has not filed a reply to the HC notice.
This proves how sincere the civic body is in carryingout its responsibilities towards citizens. We will request the court to take appropriate action, like contempt of court against civic officials for failing to submit a reply.” When it was pointed out that the civic body has started laying a water pipeline, Merchant said, “Though this is good news, they have to inform the court first. We have not been officially informed yet.”
Another resident AJ Mistry, secretary of Lily Society, said, “We had petitioned State water supply minister Laxmanrao Dhobale, who had assured us about regular water supply. There appears to be some positive development as the water pipeline work is in progress.”
PMC responds PMC
Superintending engineer (water supply) Narendra Salunke said, “We are concerned about the Raheja Garden water issue. We have not filed a reply to the HC notice as we have not received a copy of the order.”
Salunke clarified that they would peruse the matter as per HC directions. When asked about work on the pipeline, he said, “We cannot say that it is meant solely for Raheja Garden. The work of the expansion of the water supply network is going on at various places.”
HC Lawyer says contemp possible
Amit Kumar Bhowmik, a senior lawyer of Bombay High Court, said, “If the PMC fails to submit a reply in time, the petitioner can file a contempt of court petition, in which the municipal commissioner can be held responsible.
The petitioner can request the court to recover the expenses due to unreasonable delay.” He added, “In such a case, the petitioner could bring it to the notice of the Justice that the delay could be deliberate and part of a nexus between the builder and PMC officials.
The PMC’s response that they have not received a copy of the notice is foolish and this reason cannot sustain before the court, because it is the responsibility of their legal department to convey order to whichever department.”