Mumbai: Wodehouse Gymkhana won't part with its open land

Updated: Mar 11, 2019, 18:36 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

The gymkhana, according to a Bombay HC order, owes 3,000 sq m of land to the City Collectorate, without which its licence cannot be renewed

The Wodehouse Gymkhana near Cooperage ground was established around a century ago. Pics/Bipin Kokate
The Wodehouse Gymkhana near Cooperage ground was established around a century ago. Pics/Bipin Kokate

It is not going to be so easy for the Wodehouse Gymkhana in Nariman Point to renew its licence, unlike other gymkhanas in the city. The biggest hurdle for it being a Bombay High Court order of 1985 that had asked it to return its open land to the City Collector. The 110-year-old gymkhana is yet to hand over more than 3,000 sq m of this land.

Senior officials at the collectorate office said that they cannot calculate the new land rent based on the ready-reckoner rates until the 3,186 sq m land is handed back to them. "The land has been encroached upon for many years. The gymkhana management was supposed to clear it and hand it over to the collector. We cannot renew their agreement until they do so," said an official at the collector's office, adding that a reminder in this regard too was issued a couple of months ago.

The Wodehouse Gymkhana near Cooperage ground was established around a century ago. Pics/Bipin Kokate

While the gymkhana's official website states that it came into existence in 1909, records at the collector's office show that the first lease agreement with Wodehouse Gymkhana was registered on January 1, 1939 for a period of 60 years with the civic authority then. At the time, the gymkhana occupied a total area of 13,084 sq m. On April 16, 1941, an agreement was registered with the then state government and it expired on December 31, 1998.

According to the Urban Land (Ceiling & Regulation) Act, 1976 which imposed a limit on how much vacant land an individual entity may hold, the gymkhana was supposed to return 7,276 sq m of land. Officials at the collectorate said that the gymkhana had moved a miscellaneous petition against it in 1978. "The High Court didn't rule in their favour. After the order, consent terms were signed in May 1985 by both the gymkhana and the collector," said the official.

According to the terms, the official added, the gymkhana had to return 7,276 sq m of land and were allowed to use 1,094 sq m of open land for a swimming pool. On March 28, 1995, the gymkhana handed over a portion of the land - 4,090 sq m - while the remaining land is yet to be handed over. It is currently occupied by slum tenements and the gymkhana's staff quarters. The act was, however, later repealed in 2007.

Other violations
Collectorate officials also alleged that over the years, the gymkhana has committed certain other violations too. "They made structural changes without the collector's permission. They have made sheds in the sports areas and have carried out repairs on internal structures without taking approvals," said an official.

He added that the gymkhana will have to pay a penalty which will be calculated while drafting the demand notice for the outstanding dues based on the current market value. Based on the previous agreement, the gymkhana pays R13,487 as annual rent. Despite repeated attempts, officials at the Wodehouse Gymkhana including president Mohan Lalvani, and the secretary did not wish to comment on the issue.

Timeline of events
1909: Gymkhana came into existence according to its website
January 1939: First lease agreement with Wodehouse Gymkhana was registered (for 60 years), according to records at the collector's office
April 1941: An agreement was registered with the state govt
December 1998: Agreement with state govt expired
1978: Gymkhana moved a petition against Urban Land Ceiling Act
1985: Consent terms filed by gymkhana and collector after HC order
March 1995: Gymkhana handed over 4,090 sq m of land to collector
2007: Urban Land Ceiling Act repealed

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