HC slams Maharashtra govt over failure to decide on integrating civil defence centres with state disaster management authority

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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has warned of initiating contempt action against the Maharashtra government if it fails to take a decision by July 4 on the proposal to integrate civil defence centres in coastal districts with the state disaster management authority.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik on Monday heard a public interest litigation filed by one Sharad Raul, a retired official from the state revenue department, seeking the establishment of civil defence centres in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts.

In the petition filed in 2021, Raul had said that such centres would provide assistance and protection from any hostile attack or natural calamities such as cyclones, earthquake, flooding and fire.

The PIL had claimed that six districts in Maharashtra, including Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, were declared multi-hazardous areas in 2011 and directions were issued to set up civil defence centres in these districts.

While the centres have been set up in Mumbai, Raigad, Palghar and Thane, they have not been established in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, the petition stated.

The high court in its order, made available on Wednesday, noted that the state government’s proposal to reorganise the civil defence centres by integrating them with the state disaster management authority has been pending for over five years.

During the hearing on Monday, additional government pleader B V Samant informed the court that the state government’s home department has sought further extension of two months to take a final decision on the same.

Irked by this, the bench in its order said, We have no hesitation to observe that the state government has been completely remiss in taking a final decision on the proposal of integrating the civil defence centres with the state disaster management authority.

The bench said it was granting one last opportunity to the state government and posted the plea for further hearing on July 4.

It is made abundantly clear that if the state fails to take an appropriate decision by that time, we may have no other option but to proceed for initiating action under the Contempt of Courts Act, including securing the personal presence of the principal secretary of the home department, the court said.

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