The Bombay High Court has refused to stay the demolition of a few structures in Jogeshwari spread over 12,000 sqm observing that this would not only delay the completion of the rehab but will also prejudice the others in the same slum who have actually vacated and are presently out on transit rent.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale, on June 15, refused relief to 11 slum dwellers in Jogeshwari East observing: “Staying demolition of individual structures delays completion of the rehab units and thus prejudices others in the same slum who have actually vacated and are presently out on transit rent.”
Demolition notice issued by the SRA
The HC was hearing a petition filed by 11 slum dwellers challenging the eviction and demolition notice issued by the SRA under the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act. They initially claimed that their structures were not surveyed. However, in May, the HC noted this was incorrect because the Petition itself accepts that a survey has been done. Of the 272 people on site, 90 were found to be eligible. About 180 persons did not cooperate.
The bench noted that since the survey was conducted, the structures must be demolished so that the redevelopment project can be started as soon as possible. It is required as it is unfair to persons who have vacated the premises and are out of transit rent.
“These Petitioners have done this and have staved off demolition for the last six months. But this completely elides the situation of others who have vacated and whose structures have been demolished. They are out on transit rent. They want the project to proceed so that they get their rehab units as fast as possible.”
Besides, as per the SRA law, the rehab units need to be done first, and the free sale units which are the profit element to builders are done later, phase-wise. “It seems to us unthinkable that persons who want protection against demolition should be so utterly unmindful of persons who were once their neighbours and fellow slum dwellers. This now becomes an each-person-for-himself-or-herself situation, and all sense of a community or a larger responsibility is lost. We will not permit this,” added the bench.
Senior advocate Navroz Seervai and advocate Cherag Balsara, counsels for the developer Gyan SP LLP, said that their earlier offer of six months of transit rent to these dwellers still stands. If the petitioners are found to be ineligible for rehabilitation, the developer will not seek a return of the transit rent, said Seervai.
Senior advocate Nitin Thakker, appearing for the slum dwellers, on instructions, accepted the offer.
Jagdish Reddy, advocate for the SRA, informed the court that it was waiting for authorities like the electricity and rationing office, to confirm the petitioners’ documents for determining their eligibility.
Authorities did not respond within a reasonable period
The bench remarked that this is “entirely unacceptable” that the SRA has sent communications and not followed up with these authorities. “Indeed, we are rather surprised that all these authorities (electricity, rationing office) who have digital databases have not responded within a reasonable period,” added the court.
Asking the SRA to follow up with the authorities, the HC has kept the plea for a hearing on June 20.