Almost 26 years after the seven-storey Govinda Tower collapsed in Kherwadi in Bandra East claiming the lives of 33 persons, the Bombay High Court has paved the way for its redevelopment.
Court's detailed order on the redevelopment
The court has permitted the Kherwadi Rajhans Co Operative Housing Society to appoint a new developer and directed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) and the BMC not to insist for an NOC from the previous developer. The order was passed on December 13, 2023. However, the detailed order copy was made public last week.
Initially, developer Jairam Chawla of Apex Gas Services Pvt Ltd and hotelier Dilip Datwani had agreed to reconstruct the building. However, as the redevelopment failed to take off, the residents approached the HC in 2001 seeking direction to MHADA and BMC to reconstruct the building and provide them with free houses.
AA Estate Private Limited, a RNA Corp Group Company, offered to redevelop the building in 2009 and a Development Agreement (DA) was signed in 2014. However, AA Estates too failed to start the redevelopment work forcing the residents to approach the HC once again in August 2022 seeking permission to appoint a developer of their choice.
Background details of case
AA Estates had filed for bankruptcy and a Resolution Professional (RP) was appointed under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. The RP opposed the petition claiming that there is a moratorium and it is possession of the property on which Govinda Tower stood.
However, the residents opposed saying that AA Estates was never in actual possession of the site. Their counsel Pradeep Sancheti produced photographs showing that gas cylinders were present at the site. This shows that Apex Gas, the lessee from MHADA of the land, who was the original owner/ developer of the structure, was still in actual possession of the plot.
Had AA Estates taken over physical possession and started construction, piling machines or bulldozers would have been present there, Sancheti added. Also, the public notice issued by RP giving a list of properties, belonging to AA Estates, which were taken over by him after insolvency proceedings were initiated, did not mention Govinda Tower.
Mayur Khandeparkar, appearing for AA Estates, countered saying that the Expression of Interest public notice does not contain all details but is at best a generalised summary. He added that in other more detailed documentation this particular Development Agreement would be mentioned.
The bench agreed that there is no evidence of actual continued physical possession. “An odd entry for this or that work will not suffice,” the bench added. Hence, there is “no element of recovery" at all directly or indirectly.