Mumbai: More than a year after the state government decided to reclaim an "illegally' allotted land to Vibgyor High School, a private school in Goregaon, no action has been taken.
The state housing department, in March last year, had directed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to cancel the allotment of the 6063 sqft plot to a charitable trust, which in turn sub-leased the land to two other organisations, including one running the school. Terming the sub-leasing agreement, which was earlier approved by MHADA, null and void, the state had also sought action against the trust members as well as the government officials involved in the land deal. It had also asked for the school's approval to be revoked.
However, none of these directives have seen the light of the day. While MHADA's Mumbai Board, in June last year, had issued a letter to Madhya Pradesh Mitra Charitable Trust (MPMCT) to hand over "the vacant and peaceful possession" of the land within a month, the state is yet to get the plot back. The school continues to be operational on the premises.
"After its [March] decision, the housing department once again sought to know the details of the issue. We have submitted the details and are awaiting a directive from the government," said an MHADA official.
A Protracted Dispute
The fresh request for details came after the trust approached Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in July, a month after the state government changed hands from Maha Vikas Agahdi (MVA) to the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.
The school has been in the middle of a protracted dispute over the way it recived the land at a prime location. The land, reserved for school and playground, was leased to MPMCT at a nominal annual charge of Rs 1. The trust later sub-leased half the land (around 3016 sqft) to the Rustomjee Kerawala Foundation, which built the 12-storied school on it. MHADA gave its No Objection Certificate (NOC) for deal, while a deed of sub-lease was approved in 2004.
However, after Avisha Kulkarni, the mother of a then-student at the school, filed a complaint MHADA in 2016, the authority's Chief Security and Vigilance Officer in 2017 recommended canceling the allotment. However, after seeking legal opinion, the housing department concluded that there was no violation in the deal. On November 26, 2019, two days before the MVA government was sworn in, conveyed to MHADA that there was no need to cancel the allotment.
Foul Play in Land Deal
However, the decision was overturned last year after the department sought a fresh opinion on the matter. In his remarks, PD Sadanshio, Deputy Secretary (Legal), Housing Department, said that there was no provision for sub-leasing the allotted land under the MHADA (Disposal of Land) Regulations 1982. The government also concluded that the trustees should be suspended or sacked for misusing the land. It also found the MHADA officials guilty of misconduct.
When FPJ reached Rustom Kerawalla, trustee of his eponymous foundation, for a comment, he claimed that he wasn't aware of the issue.
Avisha Kulkarni, the complainant, alleged that the government is purposely dragging its feet instead of acting against the culprits. "Why the government is not able to take possession of the land? It seems that they are just trying to find some loophole. How many times will housing department ask for details and how many times? They are just dilly-dallying. It's a shame," she said.