Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday refused to hand over a piece of land near the T2 terminal of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport to four original owners of the land. The owners demanded possession of their land, which had been acquired by the Central government for ‘public purpose’ in 1953. The court considered the fact that the owners had moved the court after more six decades and accordingly imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on them.
The owners, led by Felton Fernandes, had sought their land in Marol and Sahar, alleging that the government had fraudulently conspired to exploit the said land by allowing private entities to construct hotels. In its defence, the government claimed that constructing hotels is also a ‘public purpose.’ A division bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and Suresh Gupte said, “If any land, originally acquired for a public purpose, is subsequently fraudulently diverted for a private purpose, it may be open to any public-spirited individual to approach this court in its writ jurisdiction by filing a public interest litigation.”
“But that is not how these owners have approached this court. They are not guided by any public spirit and the present litigation, far from challenging the purported illegal diversion of land from a public purpose to a private cause and requiring the state to keep to the public purpose, seeks resumption of land by divesting the state of its title,” the bench added. The bench was seized with a petition filed by the owners seeking resumption of the land, which the government had acquired for ‘public purpose’ near the airport.
According to the owners, after completion of construction work, a major part of their land was unused and is still lying vacant. The owners further learnt through a public notice that the government has invited tenders from private entities for constructing hotels near the airport. Aggrieved by this ‘act’, in 2015, the owners dragged the government and also the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the HC, seeking resumption of the land. The bench, dismissing the owners’ plea, said, “Considering the facts of the case, where the very challenge to the acquisition is laid on an untenable ground and that too after a delay of so many years, we are of the view that the owners ought to be saddled with costs of Rs 10,000, to be paid to the Union government.”