Higher Echelons Of BMC More Concerned About Private Interest Of Developer Than Public Interest: HC Admonishes Mumbai Civic Body
The Bombay High Court has directed a private builder to vacate the premises which was reserved for expansion of the Nair Hospital run by the Mumbai civic body. The Court came down heavily on the latter for its sheer apathy.
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M. S. Karnik noted that "The manner in which the officials in the higher echelons of the MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) proceeded at the relevant time is not only shocking, against public interest, but to the detriment of Nair Hospital and ultimately the citizens for whom the land was acquired. We are saddened to note that instead of safeguarding public interest, the then officials of the MCGM have all gone out of the way to promote the private interest of the Developer."
Advocate Aseem Naphade was the Amicus Curiae and AGP Himanshu B. Takke appeared for the State. Senior Advocate Sharan Jagtiani appeared for the Developer and Advocate Girish S. Godbole appeared for MCGM.
In 2008, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had permitted Rubberwala Developers to occupy almost 5,000 sq ft as a licencee of godowns on the Mumbai Central land acquired in 1992 for the "public purpose'' of the civic hospital's expansion, but where now stands an office building, in which the builder has his office.
The Court observed that it was a classic case of how the Developer got away with so many irregularities and yet the MCGM except for saying that at the appropriate stage they will recover the possession, nothing was done.
"We find that not only the breaches on the part of the Developer are condoned at every stage, but every irregularity is brazenly regularized in the garb of exercising the powers conferred by the municipal laws. We have no hesitation in saying that present is a case where there has been gross abuse of powers at the cost of overwhelming public interest. The only inference that we can draw is that the Developer's personal interests have been advanced in the process.", the Court observed.
The Court noted that the Additional Municipal Commissioner and the Municipal Commissioner shockingly granted repair permission in respect of a structure that was not even in existence.
The Court wondered why the top officials of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai were so kind to the Developer at the cost of Nair Hospital.
"It is disturbing to note that such gross irregularities in the matter of transfer of tenement, are sought to be regularized in a manner which has an effect of defeating public interest. This is a matter where instead of safeguarding public interest, the interests of a private developer are sought to be safeguarded by not only condoning and overlooking the gross material irregularities, but tried to be justified by MCGM on the ground that the permissions are granted in accordance with the repair policy and the Developer has agreed to abide by the terms of the transfer policy.", the Court observed.
The Court directed the developer to vacate the premises within a month.
On the question of compensation to the developer, the Court observed thus "We find that the construction was put up on the understanding that whenever the MCGM would require the premises back, the same would be handed over to the MCGM. Moreover, the Developer is in possession of the premises for last more than 14 years and has upon construction of the new building, utilized the structure for private purpose and gains. The Developer was always well aware of the consequences and, therefore, the question of compensation does not arise."
The instant petition was filed by one Imran Suleman Qureshi seeking directions to get the builder to hand over premises to BMC for Nair hospital expansion.
The Court observed that the Additional Municipal Commissioner did not pay any heed to the request of the Dean of the Nair Hospital, who was time and again requesting for the possession of the land which was acquired for the public purpose of extension of Nair Hospital.
"We are sorry to observe that not only the irregularities are overlooked but the authorities of the MCGM appear to have indirectly assisted the Developer at every stage by ignoring the genuine pleas made by the Dean, Nair Hospital and some of its own officers.", the Court noted.
The Court added that "We feel sorry for the Dean of the Nair Hospital who has been treated so shabbily by the MCGM, thereby depriving the patients with medical conditions and their relatives accompanying them of some basic needs, all for the benefit of a private developer.", the Court added.
"The developer-respondent no. 5 to vacate the subject premises within one month from the date of uploading of this order.", the Court directed while allowing the Petition.
Cause Title- Imran Suleman Qureshi v. Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai & Ors.