Bombay HC Directs BMC To Refund ₹9 Lakh To Organisers After 'Mumbai Shanti Mohotsav 2022' Cancelled

Bombay HC Directs BMC To Refund ₹9 Lakh To Organisers After 'Mumbai Shanti Mohotsav 2022' Cancelled

The event was to be held at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority ground at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and hence the organisers sought necessary permissions and deposited the amount.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, May 17, 2024, 01:27 AM IST
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Bombay High Court | PTI

Mumbai: Noting that it was “baffled” by the stand taken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the Bombay High Court has directed it to refund the over Rs9 lakh – “an insignificant amount by Mumbai standards” – to a Reverend from Ahmednagar after the religious leader failed to get an NOC from the Mumbai police to hold “Mumbai Shanti Mohotsav 2022. A Prayer Meet”.

The event was to be organised by the Holy Spirit Generation Church, Ahmednagar, which claimed that more than 7,000 of its members from all over the country are expected to attend it. The event was to be held at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority ground at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and hence the organisers sought necessary permissions and deposited the amount.

They deposited Rs 18,23,913 with the MMRDA, Rs 2,57,405 as temporary Non-Agricultural charges with the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO). Additionally, Rs 8,03,150 was given as scrutiny fees for fire safety requirements and Rs 57,850 as Hire Charges for fire Engine and Staff with the Chief Fire Officer and deputy Fire Officer.

However, as the BKC police station refused to grant NOC to hold the event citing law and order problems, the organisers sought refund of nearly Rs29.5 lakh amounts deposited with various authorities.

The MMRDA refunded the amount, but the SDO and fire officers did not refund the money. Hence, Reverend Pradip Kolhe, who is associated with the Church approached the HC through advocate Vinod Sangvikar seeking refund of the amount. Pending hearing, SDO refunded the amount, state advocate Molina Thakur informed the bench.

However, the BMC refused to refund the amount stating that BMC advocate Vaishali Chaudhari submitted that there is no policy for refund of the amount in case of cancellation of a program/event.

The court said that this was baffling, since there is no provision to forfeit the amount as well. “We are to say the least, baffled by the stand taken by the Respondents (BMC). Assuming there is no policy of refund, there also is no term, provision, or condition in the ‘application for permission’ to forfeit the amounts so deposited for seeking permission in the event the same is refused,” a bench of Justices MS Karnik and Kamal Khata said on Thursday.

The bench noted that a “refund would obviously be an entitlement of the Petitioner commonsensically” and forfeiture of such amounts would “clearly and unambiguously amount to unjust enrichment in the hands of the Respondents”. Also, the BMC failed to show any term, condition, provision or circular based on which they refused to refund and eventually forfeited the amount so deposited, the court said.

“In our view, the absence of any such term or condition in the application/ contract/ agreement, or statutory provision or circular would clearly disentitle the Respondents to withhold or forfeit the amounts received for permissions sought to conduct an event,” the bench underlined. The court refused to stay the order on a request by the BMC advocate. However, it granted it four weeks time to comply with the order in view of the officers being on election duty.

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