In a relief for over 1,300 slum dwellers residing in slums spread over 2457.42 Sq. Mtrs. belonging to the Thane Mental hospital, the Bombay High Court has modified its earlier 2015 order directing their removal.
A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Firdosh Pooniwalla, on Monday, modified the earlier order subject to the state government paying a premium of Rs 42 crore to the mental hospital as entailed under redevelopment schemes of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA).
In 2010, a PIL was filed by one Vrushali Kalal alleging encroachment of the hospital land sought better implementation of the Mental Health Act. The HC, in August 2015, directed the government and the Thane Collector to take steps to remove encroachment on 10 acres of Thane land and not to allot the Mental hospital land to any third party under any condition. The Mental Hospital had 72 acres initially, now 57 acres remain.
Societies approach HC seeking modification of its order
Two slum societies – Dharmveer Nagar CHS and Saptashrungi Housing Society – approached the HC seeking modification of this order directing removal of all the slums near the mental hospital contending that several of them were residing there since pre-1995 on the land were protected by law against eviction and eligible for SRA schemes to get free permanent tenements.
Their counsel Anil Singh argued that the State and the Mental hospital had no objection to the SRA schemes on the plot as the health department is then entitled to receiving 25 percent as land premium, which comes to Rs 42 crore. The amount could be used for modernising the hospital facilities.
Advocate General Birendra Saraf informed the HC the plots on which the slum rehabilitation authority (SRA) schemes are proposed are not the same as the proposed area for an approved plan to redevelop the Mental Hospital.
Advocate Mihir Desai, who was appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) opposed the plea saying that the slum rehabilitation scheme would possibly adversely affect the hospital project.
However, the court said that the hospital stands to gain about Rs 42 crore which could be utilised to improve its facilities and quality of service to patients.
Costs and delay to rehabilitate slums would be huge: Govt
Desai suggested that the slum redevelopment scheme could be implemented elsewhere. However, the government contended that the costs and delay to rehabilitate the slums would be huge and the law permits compensating the mental health hospital for loss of its land if a slum scheme is permitted on it.
The hospital filed an affidavit stating that in March, the HC modified its order and granted 15 acres to the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) for the construction of a new railway station as part of the Thane Smart City Project. In doing so, the HC had said its 2015 order against alienating any part of hospital land was to prevent illegal allotments and could thus be modified for a public project.
The HC, accordingly, modified the 2015 order.