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Updated on: Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 11:15 PM IST

FPJ Legal: SRA has to act fairly without taking sides of developers, says Bombay HC

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Pulling up the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), the Bombay high court on Wednesday paved the way for the redevelopment of a prime plot spread over nearly 43,000 square metres in Worli, which has been pending for the last 27 years. The HC said that the SRA, being a public authority, should act in a fair manner and not side with any developer.

The bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by two developers along with two cooperative societies, formed by the slum dwellers of the area, way back in 1994.

According to the protracted litigation, the slum dwellers, accounting for nearly 2,270 houses, had initially formed a cooperative society and had even roped in a private developer for redevelopment. The proposal was submitted to the SRA. Meanwhile, another cooperative society was formed by some other slum dwellers, who had also roped in another developer. The second group too sent their proposal to the SRA and accordingly, the SRA rejected the first group’s proposal.

This led to multiple litigations being filed by both cooperative societies against each other.

The bench noted that there was a major dispute over the support of 70 per cent members to the second group or proposed society and thus the SRA wrongly rejected the first group’s proposal of redevelopment.

“We note with a degree of concern that the development agreement for development of the scheme was entered into by the first group, way back in November 1994. Today we are in 2021. Almost 27 years have gone by without any tangible result on ground,” the bench noted.

“The Slum Act has been enacted to make better provision for improvement and clearance of slum areas in Maharashtra and in the process, to provide reasonable housing accommodation to the eligible slum dwellers,” the judges said, adding, “Thus slum dwellers who belong to the weaker sections of the society are to be rehabilitated by providing them reasonable housing, thereby protecting them from eviction and distress warrants. Benefit to the developer is incidental to the prime objective.”

The judges further said that in the internecine fights between developers, eligible slum-dwellers should not be made to suffer. “In this case, we have seen multiple and multi-layered litigation, thereby frustrating the very object and purport of the Slum Act in so far as implementation of the scheme is concerned. There cannot be endless litigation,” the bench observed.

Accordingly, the judges remanded the matter back to a High-Power Committee, to hear all the parties involved in this litigation and take a final decision within three months.

“The SRA is a public authority. Being a public body, it has to act in a fair and judicious manner. It must be consistent in its stand and all its actions must be transparent and above board,” the bench observed.

“It must discharge its statutory duties in an impartial manner and must not be seen to be taking sides. It must always remain alive to the prime objective of the Slum Act and act accordingly,” the bench said in its orders.

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Published on: Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 11:15 PM IST
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