Voicing the grievances of the middle-class salaried individuals, the Bombay High Court observed that while slum dwellers, who have encroached on public lands, claim entitlement to "free-of-cost accommodation and high-value marketable assets" and receive large amounts as transit rent, salaried persons working in the city have no such provisions. The court highlighted the "enormous inequity" as there is no provision for free houses or financial relief for salaried employees in the city.
The remarks were made by a division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata on November 6 while hearing a plea by a slum dwellers' society in Parel seeking the cancellation of the developer, Landmark Developers. Vaibhavi SRA CHS Ltd, a society of 286 slum dwellers from Jerbai Wadia Road, Parel, had approached the HC. A slum redevelopment project is planned on over 7,500 square meters of area.
'Enormous inequity caused in this city'
While refusing to grant them relief, the HC, on November 10, noted, “The petition brings to the forefront the enormous inequity caused in this city but in unanticipated ways. We have here demands from slum dwellers that because they have encroached on lands both public and private, because they are trespassers, therefore they have an entitlement to a reward of not only of free-of-cost accommodation and high value marketable assets but also in the meantime large amounts as transit rent.”
The society’s counsels Milind Sathe, advocate Abhinav Chandrachud submitted that they had been without transit rent since September 2021, and the amount due in arrears was over Rs 10 crore.
'No such provisions for salaried people'
Developers’ advocate Simil Purohit said that they are willing to pay the transit rent till December 2023 subject to the society approving their proposed plans. Earlier, the society had agreed to the developer’s plans.
“They (slum dwellers) are, we are told, in a position to make these demands and it does not matter, and should not matter, to anyone, even a Court of equity, that there is no such provision made for salaried persons working in the city (and that includes salaried employees of the High Court and Government),” the bench said.
It added that it was “these salaried employees who routinely draw on whatever sources they have, including their Provident Funds and other savings, and who have to pay enormous amounts towards the EMI in loan repayments. Nobody gives them a free house. Nobody gives them transit rent or any form of financial relief”.
Judges refuse to grant interim relief
Instead, we have here the society that has apparently decided not only that it must get large amounts as transit rent, and this must be paid even to those who deliberately delayed the project, but to the quite “fantastical extent” of now saying that it is the slum society that will decide the location, siting, and even the physical built form of the rehab units, the bench retorted.
“There is such a thing as going too far. We do not believe that these societies have this spectrum of rights,” the judges said while refusing interim relief.
The HC has also stayed further proceedings before the Apex Grievance Redressal Committee (AGRC) in the case until further hearing on January 29.