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Mumbai: ‘State should protect public, not put them in prolonged agony’

Updated on: 30 November,2023 04:49 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinod Kumar Menon |

Real estate and legal experts come out in support of ageing housing societies on the disputed land, raise the protection of their fundamental right to shelter and redevelopment

Mumbai: ‘State should protect public, not put them in prolonged agony’

The housing societies in Chheda Nagar were set up in the early 1970s

Key Highlights

  1. The State should protect the residents’ fundamental right to shelter and redevelopment.
  2. The 156-acre land has been under an ownership dispute since 1974
  3. Right to shelter and redevelopment is a right to life, guaranteed in the Constitution

The uncertainty over the redevelopment of buildings in Chheda Nagar has become a talking point among legal and real estate experts, who have expressed support for the residents. According to experts, the State should protect the residents’ fundamental right to shelter and redevelopment. mid-day reported on the residents’ quandary on November 28. The 156-acre land has been under an ownership dispute since 1974, which has put the buildings’ redevelopment in doubt.

Advocate Shreeprasad Parab, expert director, Maharashtra State Housing Federation, said, “Right to shelter and redevelopment is a right to life, guaranteed in the Constitution. According to Chheda Nagar residents, development rights were provided to the housing societies in lieu of the registered conveyance deed of land that they procured from the Chheda family. The civic body, thereafter provided the required statutory permissions for the construction of buildings, almost five decades ago. The plight of these residents should not be ignored by the State. We appeal to the state government to come up with a solution at the earliest.”

Public welfare first

Citing the legal maxim, salus populi est suprema lex (welfare of the people is supreme law), Parab said, “Societies with buildings which are beyond repair can approach the Bombay High Court under writ jurisdictions for redevelopment/self-redevelopment. This would protect their Right to Life, as constituted under Article 21, which includes the Right to Livelihood. They can follow the same process to expedite the issue of title of the property, which has been languishing in the city civil court since 1978, as justice delayed is justice denied.”

Parab added that the State should focus on sustainable development, and the principle ‘rex non potest peccare’ (King can do no wrong), which is crucial to public policy. “The onus to ensure public welfare, by protecting residents’ rights to shelter, livelihood, and healthy and clean environment is on the State,” Parab said.

Meanwhile, when asked if the residents still need to seek permission for repairs, Advocate Parab replied in negative, citing the MCGM, Development Control Promotion and Regulation (DCPR) -2034 and under provisions of RERA.

CA Ramesh Prabhu, founder chairman of Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association (MahaSeWA), said, “I have never come across such a dispute created by the government in Maharashtra or India. It is painful that the title disputes in Chheda Nagar are still not resolved. The collector claiming ownership of the land after nearly 50 years of housing societies existing in Chheda Nagar is unfair. It is the government’s duty to protect the interests of innocent residents and housing societies. The state government should make a policy decision to quickly provide relief to senior citizens,” said Prabhu

Other remedies

Activist Salil Rameshchandra, president of the Federation of Grantees of Government Lands, said, “Chheda Nagar’s cooperative housing societies could have explored other methods instead of relying solely on the legal system. It often involves persuading individuals in positions of authority, who may be on opposing sides, to work towards resolving problems. While this approach may take time, it has the potential to yield lasting results. 

Also read: You don't listen to court, at least listen to Parliament: Bombay HC to Maharashtra government

For instance, the collector’s order allowed existing societies to convert their lands to Occupancy Class-2 or lease lands. I had recommended pursuing reconciliation through the civil court. Some housing societies in Chheda Nagar, however, chose to challenge the collector’s order, leading to an unfavourable situation. Currently, applications for Class-2 status by those who opted to challenge the collector’s order are pending. Their names have been removed from property records. It is a challenging situation.”

“The housing societies could also have advocated for a policy addressing such disputes on contested lands. With a substantial number of voters and the support of MPs and MLAs, they could have sought help to meet the revenue minister and chief minister,” Rameshchandra said.

Rameshchandra said that apart from the deteriorating buildings and the time-consuming litigation, a major problem is the mutation of land ownership in revenue records, officially designating the State as the holder. “This would be an obstacle to redevelopment as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) relies on property cards to verify land ownership. To seek a way out, the civil court should be urged to restore the mutations that existed before the collector’s order. 

Without this, the BMC will not recognise the housing societies as landowners. If any Housing societies is in dire need for redevelopment, then they should put a proposal for redevelopment to BMC as per the established procedures. In case the BMC denies approval, the housing societies can approach the high court for redress. The precedent set by the Hiren Bharani vs State of Maharashtra provides a legal avenue for such disputes. The residents can also approach the high court to expedite the ownership dispute,” Rameshchandra said.

Year ownership dispute began

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