The Bombay High Court while hearing writ petitions filed by two companies in the business of supplying municipal water to ships, vessels and barges in the Mumbai Harbour, observed that a dictatorial 'raj' is prevalent in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the officials "are under the misconception that rule of law does not apply to them."
Division bench of Justice SJ Kathawalla and Justice BP Colabawalla in a 39-page judgment pronounced in January made sharp observations against certain officials of MCGM who decided to stop supply of water of the said companies which supply water to the entire Mumbai harbour.
Court heard two separate petitions filed by Harbor Water Suppliers Company (petitioner no. 1) and OK Marine Pvt Ltd (petitioner no.2). While petitioner number 1 has been carrying on the business of supplying water to ships, vessels and barges in the Mumbai Harbour for more than 37 years (since 1983), petitioner number 2 has been supplying water to ships and vessels etc since 2015.
According to the petitioner number 1, they have obtained necessary license from the MCGM which is valid till date and on December 3, 2019, MCGM abruptly and without any notice or intimation whatsoever, stopped the water supply to petitioner's connection by closing the valve in respect of the same.
Similarly, in petitioner number 2's case, MCGM stopped the water supply even though all conditions for renewal of connection were fulfilled by them. The petitioner blamed the "high handed tactics" of Yeshwant Jadhav, Chairman of the Standing Committee. Petitioner had even tape recorded his conversation with Jadhav to prove his illegal conduct. Jadhav's wife also happens to be the sitting MLA from Byculla constituency (Mazgaon comes under Byculla).
In view thereof, petitioner number 1 filed a writ petition and petitioner number 2 wrote two letters dated December 11, 2019 and December 16, 2019 to the MCGM recording the conduct of Yeshwant Jadhav and called upon MCGM to honestly perform its duties without coming under anybody's pressure and provide water connection at the earliest, as thousands of seafarers were suffering and were compelled to drink poor quality water due to non-supply of MCGM water.
Both the petitioners found out that the said water supply was stopped as "there were complaints from the citizens of Byculla, Darukhana and Mazgaon in view of insufficient water supply."
Advocate Gaurav Shah appeared for petitioner number 1 and Advocate D Nalavade for petitioner number 2. Whereas Advocates Girisg Godbole and NR Bubna appeared on behalf of the respondents MCGM and its officers.
In the first petitioner's case, the Court asked several questions to Abdul H Ansari, Assistant Engineer (Water Works) and advocate Bubna regarding intimation to the petitioner about disconnection of water supply considering 37 years of service.
Court questioned why the bench was not informed about the correct reason for the decision to disconnect the water supply in previous hearings. Neither advocate could give an answer to the questions posed by the Court.
The bench observed-
"Mr. Bubna, the Learned Advocate appearing for the MCGM in the first Writ Petition, is unable to explain under what provision of law the Chairman of the Standing Committee and officials of the MCGM including the Deputy Commissioner have any right to call a meeting and issue oral directions or otherwise take a decision and that too without giving prior notice or hearing to the affected partt before discontinuing the water supply to an entity who is admittedly supplied potable drinking water by MCGM since the last 37 years, only on the basis that the Chairman of the Standing Committee or any official of the MCGM had received complaints from the residents of the area concerning shortage of water (which complaints are not even brought on record) and under what provision of law the Officials of the MCGM forthwith stopped the water supply to the Petitioner No. 1 on the date of the Meeting itself i.e. 3rd December, 2019, without giving prior notice or hearing the Petitioner No. 1 of the first Writ Petition."
Similarly, the Court noted that in the second petitioner's case, MCGM did not even bother to inform the petitioner company that they will not visit the site for the purpose of the cross-connection, even though all other conditions for purposes of renewal of connection were fulfilled.
Thus, the bench noted-
"Such is the dictatorial regime / 'raj' prevalent today in the MCGM of Greater Mumbai. The concerned persons are functioning under a misconception that there is no Rule of Law applicable to the MCGM. Not only are they not bothered to follow the prescribed law and the rules, but are also dishonest with the Court, as can be seen from the aforestated conduct of Mr. Abdul Haq Ansari, Assistant Engineer (Water Works) of the MCGM."
Court directed MCGM to restore the first petitioner's connection and asked MCGM's Abdul Ansari to file an affidavit explaining why action should not be taken against him for misleading the Court. Also, a letter dated December 9, 2019, issued by MCGM to the second petitioner was quashed and set aside. Court noted that even though MCGM contends that OK Marine misrepresented certain facts, a notice should be issued and hearing should be granted.
Click here to download the Judgment