Squad razed section of club's wall while reclaiming plot

Over ten days have passed since the boundary wall of the St Anthony’s Institute Sports Academy (SAISA) at Pali Naka, Bandra (West) was demolished on the order of the suburban District Collector (DC), and the debris and metal grills continue to lie in the play area.

SAISA basketball court
Battleground: Debris has been lying on the spot and steel rods from the broken grills are protruding into the SAISA basketball court after the suburban District Collector ordered repossession of 446 sq ft of its land on November 23. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Apart from reclaiming 446 sq ft of land belonging to the suburban DC, the demolition squad also razed a wall skirting 45 sq ft of property belonging to SAISA.

A SAISA trustee who was present at the spot when the squad was breaking down the wall on the club property took pictures of the act on his mobile phone , and alleges that he was threatened when he refused to hand over his phone. SAISA trustee Dudley Drego said that at around 1.30 pm no one was present at the office and the club had shut for lunch, when officials from the suburban collector’s office arrived and started pulling down the boundary walls.

Drego said, “We did not interrupt as this was being done on their land, but I clicked photographs on my mobile when the men started demolishing a wall on the club property. They asked me for my mobile phone and threatened me when I refused. They then took me to the police station.”

“My only concern was why they entered our property. This only means they did not have the blueprints with them and had come unprepared for the demolition.”

Meanwhile, over 150 residents and club users signed a letter requesting the suburban DC’s office to see that the debris is cleared so that the club can function normally once again.

MiD DAY had reported on November 27 that the club wall was demolished because of a property tussle over 446 square feet of land.

Out of the total 2,110 sq ft that the club was operating on, 446 square feet belongs to the suburban DC’s office. The boundary wall was demolished on November 23 since it is mentioned on official documents as an open space. The order from the suburban DC (copy with MiD DAY) states that the demolition would be conducted to reclaim the 446 sq ft of land and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) would be in charge of the open space thereafter. SAISA trustees claim that though the civic body is supposed to have been given charge, no officials have showed up at the spot since the past 12 days and the debris continues to lie on the club property.

According to SAISA trustees, an order issued by the Additional Commissioner of the Konkan division reached them in 2011.

SAISA had requested for a stay, which was denied.

SAISA trustees claim that the demolition took place on November 23 this year, but they only received the notice on November 26. They claim that the officials from the suburban DC’s office, present at the spot during the demolition, said the order was passed on November 23 and immediately implemented.

Residents of the area are also feeling the pinch and hope that the matter will be resolved at the earliest.

“SAISA was open to all from 7 am to 9 pm every day and interested persons could play tennis or basketball. This pleasure has now been taken away from the youngsters,” said Bandra resident Geeta D’souza.

Sanjay Deshmukh, suburban District Collector said, “We don’t think we have got into their land. Everything was done properly and photographs were taken at the site. And secondly, there was never a stay and the higher authorities rejected their appeal so we did our work on November 23 itself.”

He added, “And if the place was for children, then why was it not open to all? Also, why was money being charged when that was our land? We had given them the land for a school and not to run a private sports club.”

Deshmukh had earlier said that the land had been leased out to St Anthony’s School, which shut down in 2006. Thereafter, the club came up and the playground was fenced off. 

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