The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs had submitted an application in 2011 to buy the Shakti Mills compound to construct several government offices. The application from the ‘Union of India’ for purchase of the mill is currently pending before the Bombay High Court. Apparently the ministry wants to construct offices for the Regional Director, Ministry of Corporate Affairs (Western Region) and the Registrar of Companies as well as for the official liquidator and the Company Law & Appellate Tribunal.
This startling fact came to light when SUNDAY MiD DAY visited the offices of city collector and the liquidator to find out why the owners of the now-infamous Shakti Mills had not paid rent to the city collector after May 2012. As per the new rent rules, the amount runs into several lakhs Rupees. According to documents available with SUNDAY MiD DAY, M/s Shakti Mills, which is spread across an area of 29,961 square yards (approximately 6.19 acres) was taken on lease from the Collector of Mumbai on May 23, 1951 but backdated to the days if the British Raj for a 50-year lease commencing from November 1, 1935. This lease expired on October 31, 1985.
Litigation followed after M/s Mahendra Ugine Steel Company limited moved a winding-up petition against Shakti Mills sometime in 1978 and an official liquidator was appointed. When SUNDAY MiD DAY contacted the liquidator office, a senior official said, “The official liquidator had made an application on May 27, 1985 to the collector requesting renewal of the said lease deed, and in response the collector in a letter dated January 24, 1986 had agreed to renew the lease for a further period of 50 years, starting November 1, 1985. While the collector has not renewed the lease after that, the official liquidator had been paying the lease rent until May 2012. The lease rent for Shakti Mills was approximatly around R900 per month,” he added.
When contacted City Collector Chandrashekhar Oak said, “I will have to go through all the records to find out the reason for non-renewal of the lease.” Asked about the non-payment of lease rent since May 2012, the collector said, “I am sure a notice might have been sent to the official liquidator for clearance of rent. We have an automated system in place for issuing reminder notices for non receipt of rents.”
However the collector clarified that from December 2012 the state government has imposed new lease rent rates based on the ready-reckoner rates. The revised (annual) rent fixed by the government is at 2 per cent (for residential leases), 4 per cent (for industrial leases) and 5 per cent of 25 per cent of the market value of the land stated in the government ready-reckoner. Will the ‘Union of India’ persist with its plans to buy the mill land? Or will the erstwhile owners reclaim their old property? There are no clear answers yet. In the meantime, dilapidated mills like these, guarded neither by cops nor by private security agencies, remain easy hunting grounds for drug addicts, rapists and thugs.