The fate of over 13,000 illegal occupants of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) flats in the city hangs in the balance as the Maharashtra government is yet to take a final call on whether or not it should approach the Supreme Court. These illegal occupants have already received eviction notices, as per the orders of the Bombay High Court.
However, the SRA is yet to take eviction action against any of these occupants.
The issue pertains to the SRA housing scheme, wherein 'eligible' slum dwellers, are given flats in redeveloped SRA buildings, free of cost. As per SRA rules, these slum dwellers cannot transfer (sell) these flats or create any third party rights for at least 10 years.
However, this rule is flagrantly abused by thousands of such ‘eligible’ slum dwellers, who do exactly this.
In February, last year, a bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Riyaz Chagla had ordered the SRA to immediately evict such occupants, who had purchased the flats in redeveloped buildings from the original tenants, before the 10-year deadline. The bench had ordered the authority to give such occupants a time frame of 48 hours to show that they were the eligible and original tenants.
Those occupants who failed to furnish such documents were to be evicted forthwith, the bench had said in its orders.
Complying with this order, the SRA has already issued eviction notices. "We have issued over 13,000 eviction notices to such illegal occupants in the city. However, we have not evicted anyone yet due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions," confirmed Satish Lokhande, the present SRA chief.
Lokhande added, "We would be submitting a compliance report before the court on the next date of hearing."
However, Maharashtra's housing minister Jitendra Awhad seems to have a different view on this issue.
"This (illegal occupants) is a social problem and thus, we need to see it from this perspective. We will soon approach the Supreme Court on the matter," the minister told The Free Press Journal.
It should be noted that last year, the bench of Justice Dharmadhikari was informed that there were 13,143 illegal occupants in Mumbai. The SRA had, however, told the bench that it would soon constitute a committee to shortlist such occupants.
However, the bench had specifically ordered the authority not to appoint such a committee as this would be a time-consuming process and give such occupants additional time to prepare mandatory documents.
The bench accordingly ordered the SRA to depute its officials to visit those places or regions where the schemes had been implemented and ascertain whether the occupants were the eligible ones.
“If some other gentleman is found to be in possession, it must be conveyed to him through notice that he may report to the authorities within 48 hours and produce proof, which is mandatory,” Justice Dharmadhikari had ordered.
‘‘If there is no proof available with such a person, then he should be asked to vacate the premises forthwith, or else the help of the local police be taken," the judge had added.
The bench had even asked the authority not to consider any request such as marriage, childbirth etc in order to postpone their eviction.