Mumbai: The Bombay High Court observed that wholesale racketeering in Mumbai and the illegal trafficking of rehabilitation tenements were causing a 'colossal' loss. It stated that it is now necessary to find means by which the state government and the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) are vested with summary powers to evict those who are not original allottees.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata said they see no reason why the government should not have a 'draconian' provision to take back such tenements and use them for other public purposes.
Court: 'They can possibly be used as PAP houses or other public purposes'
"If there were such illegal trafficking of rehab tenements, then we see no reason why the SRA and the state government should not have a provision, draconian though it may be, in support of the primacy of the rule of law to ensure that those premises are resumed by SRA or the state in vacant possession condition," the bench said.
The judges opined that these could be used for housing Project Affected Persons (PAP) or for other purposes.
"They can possibly be used as PAP (project-affected persons) houses or for other public purposes. In a city that is chronically starved of adequate affordable housing, it seems utterly unbalanced to permit individuals to profit at public expense like this," they added.
The court was hearing a petition filed by 89 persons seeking disbursement of transit rent. During the hearing, it noted that several of the original tenants had illicitly sold or transferred the rehab premises or illicitly given them on rent or a license basis.
It added that there was a need to take steps regarding these illegal transfers of SRA's rehab tenements.
The judges remarked that although the allotment of free-of-cost ownership rehab housing is 'supposedly' accompanied by a transfer restriction, that is no transfers for 10 years, the slum authority has a mechanism to control transfers of these tenements.
"The SRA does not seem to have any mechanism in place at all for controlling these transfers. If it does, it is not working, because otherwise we would not have these cases," the court opined in a 10-page order.
The bench reiterated that Aadhar-based and biometric authentication is one 'possible solution', but it is now 'necessary to find means by which the SRA and the state government are vested with summary powers to evict any person who is not the original allottee and not an heir of the allottee and is impermissibly in occupation and possession of a free-of-cost ownership rehab tenement.'
"We say this because it seems that there is wholesale racketeering in this city and trafficking in rehab tenements. The loss is colossal," the bench emphasised.
Next hearing on October 26
The bench said it would not frame a policy or direct the framing of a particular kind of policy, but would go the 'necessary distance' to identify the areas that need to be addressed by the state government. "It is our duty to enforce and uphold provisions of the law, including the restriction on transfer and make appropriate orders for the removal of persons found to be in unauthorised occupation," it underlined.
The High Court kept the matter for a hearing on October 26 and asked the Advocate General to assist in the matter.