Mumbai News: Uproar Against Proposed Theme Park At Mahalaxmi Racecourse Widens

Mumbai News: Uproar Against Proposed Theme Park At Mahalaxmi Racecourse Widens

Plea filed by businessman challenges arbitrary, capricious and patently illegal decision of the govt and BMC.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Thursday, January 18, 2024, 09:51 PM IST
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Mahalaxmi Racecourse | File

Mumbai: A businessman has approached the Bombay High Court challenging the decision of the Maharashtra government and the BMC to develop a 120-acre theme park at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse.

The court said it was not passing any order and expected all the parties concerned to maintain status quo till the next day of hearing on January 24.

Court's stand on the matter:

“We trust that none of the entities involved are going to do anything to precipitate the issue till then, since petitions are filed. Don't tell us this is fait accompli on that day. We will take a very dim view of that,” said a division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata on Thursday.

The bench clarified that it is not rejecting any ad-interim relief and will hear the plea next week for ad-interim and interim reliefs.

Satyen Kapadia, a businessman, has challenged the decision to convert the racecourse into a theme park terming the same as “arbitrary, capricious and patently illegal”.

“The impugned decisions, if implemented, would be an environmental disaster for the city. Only 40% of the population of Greater Mumbai has access to daily recreation spaces such as the said land. In one stroke, the impugned decisions will lead to the loss of 210 contiguous acres of open green space,” the plea contended.

Senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, appearing for Kapadia, mentioned the plea before the court seeking an urgent hearing considering that the BMC commissioner was to hold an ‘Open House’ over the issue on Thursday evening.

"RWITC has a lot to gain"

Dwarkadas said that the Royal Western India Turf Club Limited (RWITC) [which operates the race course] was agreeing to this since it has a lot to gain – 99 years of lease, unhindered access of the racing track and also a right to develop a club house. Also, the government was willing to spend ₹97 crore on preparing stables.

“Which stables require ₹100 crore?” quipped Justice Patel.

When the bench asked what will happen to the racing area, which is in the middle of the open space, Dwarkadas replied that it will be used for the public. The racing track is proposed to be shifted to another corner of the ground.

“If there is a race (going on), the middle open space can’t be used. If a race is going on, how will one cross (the racing track to reach the middle open space)?” asked Justice Patel.

A lease agreement was signed on June 5, 1967, which expired on March 31, 1994. The lease was extended for 19 years, till May 31, 1994. Subsequently, after accepting lease rental, the lease was extended till May 31, 2023.

Area reserved as “recreation ground”

According to Kapadia’s plea, just like in the Development Plan (DP) 1991, even in the DP 2034, the area is reserved as a “recreation ground” (RG). The government resolution issued by the Urban Development Department on October 27, 2016, the land has been classified as Heritage Grade II-B under the title “Royal Western India Turf Club”.

It points out that the land is used as a race course only during race days, which account for approximately only 22 days in a year. Whereas, it is used by the public for free as a playing field, a walking track and a space for other recreational activities.

Advocate General Birendra Saraf, appearing for state and BMC counsel Joel Carlos, said they will be filing their replies to the plea by the next date. RWITC was represented by senior advocate Vineet Naik.

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