Days after celebrating its completion of one year in office, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has received a major blow after the Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, stayed the Mumbai suburban collector’s order allotting 102 acres of salt pan land in Kanjurmarg for the construction of an integrated metro carshed.With that, the Shiv Sena’s plan to play up this move -- shifting the metro car shed to Kanjurmarg from Aarey Colony and the declaration of reserved forest on more than 600 acres at the latter spot -- ahead of the forthcoming BMC elections have also been put on hold till the court decides the matter.
The court order on Thursday was a major embarrassment for the Shiv Sena ahead of the 2022 BMC elections, as its estranged partner, the BJP, has already launched its 'Mission Mumbai', determined to corner the Sena on this issue.
The high court’s order has raised many questions which the state government will have to seriously consider before pleading its case.
Some of the questions include whether the administration kept CM Uddhav Thackeray and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray in the dark about the pending legal case pertaining to the Garodia Group? Did the administration not tell the duo about the legal complexities involving the land and the time needed for disposal? Did the administration bypass the comprehensive process of inviting suggestions and objections and above all, did the Thackeray duo rush through the decision of zeroing on the Kanjurmarg land to checkmate the BJP?
Further, why did the administration not inform the CM, Aaditya and the council of ministers that the Garodia Group was in possession of the land, the suit was pending and that there was an interim injunction in its favour? Why was the notice was not issued to the Garodia Group before transferring the land to the MMRDA and handing over its possession for construction of the metro carshed?
Interestingly, the land was reserved for affordable housing and an application was made by developer Shapoorji Pallonji to construct one lakh such houses. On November 5, the state had issued a notice for change of user. Did the suburban district collector and MMRDA bring this aspect to the CM’s notice?
Internally, the MVA government sources admit that the Garodia land dispute was not considered seriously. “The government will have to argue the case anew, taking into account the Garodia Group's claim on the land. This is bound to be a time-consuming exercise. The construction of the Metro 3 and 6 carsheds at Kanjurmarg may be delayed and the MMRDA may have to bear additional project costs,’’ sources said.
According to sources, the administration should have carried out comprehensive due diligence before giving the go-ahead for the Kanjurmarg land.