Mumbai: High court ends family's decade-long battle, gives MIDC 8 weeks to hand over flat
Gives eight weeks to MIDC to hand over flat to Poojaris, who were to get the tenement after agency demolished their hut by mistake in 2007, and later, gave the house to someone else
Sushmita, Baby Poojari's (below) daughter, at the SRA bldg in Andheri where her family was allotted a flat. Pic/Suresh Karkera
A 10-year-long court battle to get a flat that is rightfully theirs has finally ended for the family of Baby Poojari, whose hutment at Andheri East was demolished by mistake by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) during a road widening project back in 2007. The Bombay High Court has come down heavily on MIDC for handing over the SRA flat meant for the Poojaris to a third party instead. Justice G S Patel has directed MIDC to hand over the flat or alternative premises within eight weeks.
Baby Poojari, the petitioner, lived with her family in a 150-sq-feet house in Bhim Nagar, Andheri (East), built before 1985, on a plot owned by MIDC. In 2007, MIDC decided to redevelop the property and Babu, who had a tea stall in the same vicinity, was inexplicably declared ineligible for alternative accommodation under SRA.
In May 2007, the family went to their native place in Mangalore and returned a year later in July 2008 to find that their house had disappeared. According to their lawyer, Advocate Nilesh Gala, Baby Poojari said the family had not received any order of eviction.
Babu Poojari then filed a suit in 2008 in the City Civil Court as well as a Notice of Motion to which MIDC responded alleging that Poojari was not eligible, and the suit was dismissed. This was done despite the fact that the Poojaris had a valid driving licence and ration card stating that they were living there prior to 1995. The family then rented a flat nearby, and in 2014, Babu passed away. Baby Poojari then took up the fight and approached Advocate Gala, who filed a writ petition in 2017.
Advocate Nilesh Gala, who fought the case without a fee
RTI to the rescue
Gala said, "We had no option but to file an RTI as the Poojaris did not have enough documentation. It was shocking that the MIDC did not even respond properly to the numerous RTI queries that we had raised."
He added, "It was during this period that the Poojaris applied for the Annexure-II document from SRA under RTI from MIDC. We were shocked to learn that Flat no A-406, Rehab Building no 8, Pocket No 5, MIDC Andheri (E) had actually been allotted in the name of Babu Poojari, but was shown as transferred [by Babu Poojari] to another person, Suresh Madle."
Gala said, "The widow was completely taken aback and said she had never ever been informed about such an allotment and neither had the family transferred the flat to anyone for monetary gain."
Advocate Gala, said, "The Bombay High Court, after hearing both sides, passed an interim order instructing MIDC to furnish all the papers pertaining to the alleged transfer of property. That's when MIDC submitted an affidavit claiming there were no such documents available with their office." Justice Patel, in his order, stated that, "Babu Poojari did not at any point transfer his premises to anyone in his lifetime. It is unknown on what basis Suresh Madle was shown as transferee. Despite being given sufficient time, MIDC was unable to show any proper transfer document."
The court also stated, "The MIDC contended that the petitioner and her husband were ineligible, but a transferee of an ineligible person cannot get eligibility in this fashion."
The order states, "MIDC may take necessary steps within eight weeks either to a) Evict Madle and obtain vacant possession, cancel the allotment and put the petitioner (Baby Poojari) in possession of the flat, or b) Offer the petitioner alternative premises"
Advocate Gala said, "If MIDC fails to comply with the order within the stipulated time period, I will move a contempt proceeding against them." "Our fight for the last eleven years and our faith in the judiciary has been vindicated by the Bombay High Court. My dad was a mere tea vendor, and a few officials took advantage of our situation," said Sushmita Poojari, 22, who works in a private firm, and is the sole earning member in the family. She said, "We are also thankful to our lawyers, who stood by us despite us not being able to pay them."