Ten-year catfight over Mahim home

74 year-old Mahim resident is fighting a lone battle to ensure that 16 cats and six dogs inherit her home

Daphne Brace, a 74 year-old woman, has been fighting a lone, decade-long battle to save her family and her ancestral home in Mahim. Her 'We are Family' picture � one she takes seriously � includes 16 cats, six dogs and her sister Essel.  

Daphne and Essel, who is in her mid-eighties, are the sole residents of a century-old bungalow that was built by their grandfather. The Brace sisters have one last wish � they want their "children" to inherit their property, and continue to lead a secure life.

"We did not marry since we chose to look after our ailing mother, who died nine years ago, at the age of 99. After her demise, I took solace in adopting stray cats, and before long, we had over sixteen of them," Daphne says, while sauntering outside to feed three of them.

She retired 14 years ago from the Consulate of Indonesia, where she served for 27 years. After witnessing most plots around theirs going in for redevelopment, she made plans to secure the future of her family. The idea was to hand over the plot to a builder in exchange for a legally binding contract according to which the builder would create a shelter for her pets at the same spot, and take care of their food and medical requirements.

But Daphne's 150 square-yard plot in Mahim (West) had no takers due to an illegal encroachment on the road leading to her property. "I can see concrete buildings mushrooming around my plot. The access to my house, which is 10 feet wide according to the Development Plan (prepared by the civic authorities) has shrunk to little over a foot, owing to illegal encroachments," she says.

No developer will touch a plot that doesn't have a clear access route, she rues. Almost a decade ago, Daphne filed a case in the Honourable Small Cause court against the D'Costa family who have built a home that blocks the access route. Sunday MiD DAY has in its possession a copy of the court judgment, dated June 10, which instructs the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to take action against occupants of the illegal encroachment, within ten days of notice.

Sunday MiD DAY is also in possession of a copy of the Development Plan, which indicates the 10-feet access route to the  property, which is the standard followed, to allow simultaneous, two-way traffic from any developed plot.

Despite the court orders, the encroachment is yet to be demolished. "The court orders are in my favour, yet I can't protect my property while I am still alive. The moment we are gone, our entire property will be encroached upon, and my darlings (pets) will have nowhere to go," Daphne says.

Devendra Jain, Assistant Commissioner of G-North Ward, claims to have given Daphne a particular date when she can meet him with relevant papers.

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