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Bombay High Court Upholds Aviation Safety: Denies MHADA’s Plea for Height Relaxation Near Mumbai Airport

Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by News Desk

Introduction:

The Bombay High Court has recently dismissed the writ petition filed by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), which sought relaxation of height restrictions for a proposed 40-floor building near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) in Mumbai. The court, comprising Justice GS Patel and Justice Kamal Khata, emphasized the paramount importance of aviation safety in its decision.

Issues:

MHADA proposed the construction of a 40-floor building with a height of 115.54 meters, housing 560 tenements within a four-kilometer radius of CSMIA. The Airport Authority of India (AAI) had specified height restrictions based on international aviation safety standards, with lower permissible heights near the airport. AAI communicated a maximum height of 58.48 meters to MHADA, but the latter appealed the decision. The Appellate Authority of the Ministry of Civil Aviation granted a height of 96.68 meters, leading to MHADA challenging this decision in its writ petition.

Reasoning:

The court’s division bench firmly asserted that aviation safety norms cannot be relaxed based on the identity of the developer, whether public or private. It rejected MHADA’s claim to a legal or constitutional right for a taller building and highlighted the potential risks posed to civil aviation if height restrictions were disregarded. The court acknowledged that MHADA is not being selectively targeted for height restrictions, as the appellate authority’s decision was already in favor of MHADA. It emphasized that if relaxation were granted to MHADA, the same concession must be extended to all applicants and developers, irrespective of their public or private status. The judges underscored the responsibility of a public authority like MHADA in adhering to safety standards and expressed reluctance in accepting any proposition that compromises aviation safety.

Conclusion:

In concluding its judgment, the Bombay High Court dismissed MHADA’s petition, affirming that no public authority, including MHADA, should seek exemption from civil aviation safety norms. The decision underscores the importance of adhering to established safety standards, especially in proximity to critical infrastructures such as airports, and establishes a precedent against selective relaxations for public entities based on their identity.

Written — Athi Venkatesh

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