MUMBAI: Municipal employees have no right to retain quarters after retirement, the Bombay high court has ruled. In a blow to around 4,000 families, who have been staying in quarters, some for nearly 40 years after the civic employee retired, a division bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Burgess Colabawalla refused to direct BMC to give them the premises on ownership or permanent tenancy basis. The bench said this would “set a bad precedent and is not in public interest”. The HC upheld the municipal commissioner’s decision to evict such employees and recover market rent for overstaying.
The court said there was “no right to occupy” municipal premises, which are held by BMC as a trustee of public property. “Municipal servants must realise that like others they are public servants. The municipal corporation should also realise that they are trustees of public property and cannot dispose it off without due process of law,” said the judges. “The employees are obliged to hand over possession of the premises on retirement or superannuation so that it can be allotted to other staff,” the court added, pointing to BMC’s statement that there are over 10,000 municipal employees on the waiting list for allotment of staff quarters. This included civic staff who are engaged in emergency services like fire brigade and water works. The HC said there was nothing wrong or illegal in BMC initiating action and “wrongful retention of municipal property will have to be visited with consequences”.
“If the court allows such a request (to allow employees to retain staff quarters after retirement), it will make a mockery of the rule of law. No one will vacate staff quarters and retain them. They will continue to occupy houses meant for public servants,” said the HC. The court said there was no provision to house retired employees and no rules that required BMC to provide them homes after cessation from service.
The HC said if any retired employee agrees to hand over the premises, he would be given three months. If they fail to do so, BMC was free to recover dues and damages by attaching personal properties of the occupants. The HC said if there was a proposal to redevelop the municipal properties, BMC should not object if a private developer was willing to rehouse the families.
The 4,000 employees are mainly staying in four enclaves in Barve Nagar in Ghatkopar, Mitha Nagar in Goregaon, Deonar and Vikhroli-Parksite. Many have been residing since the 60s, even after the employee retired or died in service. The employees and their families cited a letter by the municipal commissioner in 1989 and a BMC resolution that recommended granting the premises on ownership or permanent tenancy basis. In 2007, the commissioner initiated proceedings to evict staff and their families, recover market rent and hold back pension benefits. The retired staff and their families approached the HC. Senior advocate A Y Sakhare, counsel for BMC, said the law was that public property cannot be retained illegally.
Credits ET Realty