Mumbai: BMC takes back prime Pali Hill space given to Shiv Sena trust
After Pali Hill residents move HC over the civic body giving away a community centre at a throwaway price, BMC withdraws allocation
It is a victory for Pali Hill Residents' Association as the BMC has withdrawn its decision to allot a 4,600 square feet community centre inside Bandra's Veer Sambhaji garden to the Shiv Vidya Prabodhini Balasaheb Thackeray IAS Academy.
This comes two years after the residents moved the high court against a proposal presented by the civic body, without issuing tenders, to allot the space to the academy for a licence fee of Rs 3,855/month.
In 2018, BMC had allotted the community centre for an annual licence fee of Rs 46,252 to the academy managed by deputy Sena leader Vijay Kadam. On October 22, 2018, mid-day had reported about how the BMC —without inviting tenders and following the appropriate process — had moved a proposal to give the nearly 5,000 square-feet space in Bandra's upscale Pali Hill for lease of less than a rupee per-square-foot. The association had filed a petition challenging the civic body's decision.
The residents want to start an OPD dialysis and physiotherapy unit at the community centre. File pic
During a hearing of the case on January 24, the civic body informed bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and B P Colabawalla about their decision to withdraw the allotment of the welfare centre to the academy. Following this, the court disposed of the petition.
The HC order further stated that even the academy had informed the court that their application to the BMC (dated March 16, 2018) be treated as withdrawn and allotment cancelled.
Due process to be followed
"Last year in September the BMC had prepared a draft policy, which will soon be placed before the general body for its approval. Once the go-ahead is received, the civic body will proceed to invite applications by issuing advertisements in local newspapers for allotment of the welfare centre," the order mentions. However, the court in its order has cited that the academy would be at liberty to respond to the advertisement.
In December 2017, Kadam had written to Shiv Sena corporator Ananth Nar (then the chairman of the Improvements Committee), urging him to consider allotting the space to his educational trust.
In March 2018, Nar pitched the proposal before the House, and forwarded it to then Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar and the civic administration.
In April, the municipal administration informed Kadam that they had decided to lease out the community centre to his academy for a period of five years and for an annual licence fee of Rs 46,252.
When Pali Hill residents got to know about it, they immediately moved the court to stall the process. Secretary of the association, Madhu Poplai welcomed the order.
'It's a victory'
She said, "The verdict is a victory of the locals against the civic administration's decision to allot the welfare centre without inviting tenders and following the bidding process." Further, appreciating mid-day's efforts to investigate the case and report about it, the secretary claimed that the association was not against any party or academy.
"Now that the civic body has assured to follow the right process, the association would like to participate in the bids to start an OPD dialysis and physiotherapy centre for those who cannot afford expensive medical treatment. The other part of the welfare centre will be used to start crèche and free tuition classes for children of house-helps and underprivileged kids living in the vicinity," she added.
The association's advocate, Nachiket Khaladkar, said, "The court has asked the corporation to ensure that community centre is allotted as per the law and applicable policy."
The flip side
Speaking to mid-day, Kadam claimed that the academy's intention was not to grab the plot just because it's located in Pali Hill.
"Our academy's aim is to provide guidance, support and coaching to students who are planning to take up civil services. The trust's aim is to provide these facilities especially to those students who come from families who cannot afford educational expenses incurred during the preparation for such exams," the Sena leader added.
He further said that though they had withdrawn their application, whenever the civic body issues an advertisement for allotment of the welfare centre, the academy would definitely participate in the bid.
When the proposal was placed to allot the community centre to the academy
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