The Bombay High Court on Tuesday said that adequate steps are not being taken by the SRA to protect the interest of the slum dwellers as provided under the scheme of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act.
A division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhayaya and Justice Arif Doctor said that although the SRA has said that, as per its August 1 circular, the condition of depositing two years’ advance transit rent is applicable to ongoing projects as well, the same is not being adhered to in “letter and spirit”. No permission shall be granted to the developers unless such conditions are fulfilled.
Expressing displeasure over the “vague/ insufficient” affidavit filed by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), the high court directed the competent authority of the SRA to file a “better affidavit” mentioning all the facts and figures as asked for by the court earlier.
The HC was hearing two public interest litigations (PILs) filed by advocate Vijendra Rai highlighting the issue of non-payment of transit rent by developers to eligible persons / slum dwellers. The PILs pointed out 17 projects of Omkar Realtors and Developers Pvt Ltd.
The court opined that adequate steps are not being taken by the SRA though under the scheme of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971, adequate mechanism is available with the authorities of the SRA to ensure that interest of the slum dwellers and others is protected.
“One of the major areas where the SRA needs to pay attention is non-payment of transit rent to the slum dwellers and disposal of complaints in this regard within some stipulated period of time. Such inaction on the part of the authorities of SRA cannot be approved of,” the bench added.
The judges noted that: “Though,… the SRA has admitted that the circular dated 1st August 2023 is applicable to the ongoing projects as well, however, it appears that enough and adequate steps are not being taken by the SRA to implement the said circular in its letter and spirit.”
SRA’s advocate informed the court that whenever any permission is granted to a developer in respect of ongoing projects, the condition that they have to make a deposit of two years’ rent along with post-dated cheques as also the amount of arrears, is being strictly adhered to.
Stating that the SRA insist on complying with the conditions in the August 1 circular, the court has said that “no permission shall be granted to the developers unless such conditions are fulfilled” and “breach of any of the conditions” shall be viewed seriously by the Court.
After going through the SRA’s affidavit, the HC noted: “In the affidavit filed by the SRA, however, we find the averments made to be vague/insufficient…” It then directed that the “competent authority of the SRA shall file a better affidavit mentioning all the facts and figures”.
The HC has kept the PIL for hearing on November 1, 2023