Maharashtra Govt Policy Encouraging Encroachments, Turning Mumbai into a Slum City: Bombay HC
Moneylife Digital Team 13 June 2024
The Bombay High Court (HC), while observing that the Maharashtra government's slum policy, through which private and public lands get converted into free tenement for encroachers once it is recognised as a slum rehabilitation area, is encouraging encroachment and thus turning an international city like Mumbai into a slum city.
The HC was hearing a plea filed by bishop John Rodrigues, sole trustee and rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount in Bandra, challenging an order issued by the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) to acquire part of the church's land for Rs17 lakh.
While granting relief to the trust managing Mount Mary's church in Bandra (West), the bench of justice Girish Kulkarni and justice Jitendra Jain set aside action initiated by SRA to acquire 1,596.40sqmtr (square metres) of land of the trust for the redevelopment of 35 slums tenements situated on it.
The bench says, "In our opinion, it is as good as a premium on the illegality of the encroacher in encroaching on either private or public land. Unfortunately, it is the state policy which in fact has encouraged encroachments on all categories of lands and in fact has resulted in large government lands being siphoned out from the 'state pool' and equally private lands being completely lost to its owners."
"The sad story is," the HC says, that the "encroachments are invariably backed by slumlords, criminals, social workers, politicians (as the squatters would be vote banks). Therefore, it becomes impossible for bonafide landowners to fight with such forces to prevent the land from encroachment.”
In the plea, bishop Rodrigues contended that the trust's preferential right, as the owner of the land, to redevelop the land occupied by the 35 hutments and to rehabilitate them, was taken away by the SRA by resorting to compulsory acquisition of the land, at the behest of the proposed society of the slum-dwellers and the developer appointed by them. 
In the order, the HC says, "The slum dwellers merely by forming a society cannot assert that their rights are higher than the rights of the owners of the land."
The bench says under Section 14 of the Slum Act, private land cannot be acquired merely because of the desire of the slum society to do so. "If such meaning is to be attributed to Section 14, the provision would be rendered draconian, bringing horrendous consequences not imagined by the legislature, and extraneous to the provision," the HC says.
1 month ago
Why only Maharashtra government? Almost all governments have similar and unfair policies.
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