Teachers finally get ‘justice’ after 5-year legal battle

After almost five years of protracted battle with the Central Railways, the residents, mostly teachers, of a society in suburban Kurla finally breathed a sigh of relief this week. The teachers have now got a go ahead to their proposal for redeveloping their almost 40 year old building, which is in a dilapidated condition.

The teachers are residents of the Vinobha Bhave Nagar Godavari Adhyapak Cooperative Society situated at Kurla West near the railway line. The two buildings of the society were constructed by the MHADA and the tenements were allotted to teachers under a special scheme.

In 2016 for the first time, the teachers had moved a plea before the MHADA seeking to redevelop the building's since the same were now in dilapidated condition and posted a serious threat to their lives.

On being moved, the MHADA granted it the necessary permissions however, asked them to mandatorily seek an NOC from the Central Railways since the land on which the society stands, is adjacent to the railway lines.

Accordingly, an application for an NOC was filed before the railway authorities.

Various officials in the Railways, through internal letters deemed the redevelopment feasible and approved the same. The Deputy Chief Engineer, Central Railways, who had the final say in the matter as to whether to give an NOC or not, rejected the application citing certain discrepancies in the width of the railway land at the concerned location on a comparison of the original record of the railways.

Subsequently, a fresh plea was filed after which the deputy chief engineer ordered for a survey of the land by the city survey officer, whose report concluded that the society's land, in no manner encroached upon the railway plot.

However, the engineer once again rejected the application citing similar reasons. Further, a third plea was filed for the NOC and again the earlier procedure of surveying the land in question was performed.

Even for the second consecutive time, the city survey officer gave a similar finding in favor of the teachers. However, the engineer once again rejected the plea and before he could order a third survey, the residents moved the bench led by Justice Kathawalla.

The judges after going through the material on record, noted that the teacher's land did not encroached upon the railway's plot. They also noted the fact that from 2016 till date the railways haven't submitted any "record" to show that the teacher's society in anyway obstructed the smooth functioning of the railway lines.

"Despite the fact that for a second time the correctness of the boundary of the subject land with the railway land was confirmed, the deputy chief engineer did not budge from his adamant position and withheld the NOC," the judges said.

"Had the residents not approached this Court, it appears to us that the surveying orders would have continued as an endless process thereby impinging upon the rights of the residents, who have been earnestly waiting for the redevelopment of their building," the judges said in their orders.

Further the bench deprecated the "conduct" of the engineer saying, "This is not the conduct we expect out of an instrumentality of the state."

"In our view the residents, who have been living in a dilapidated building since the last several years ought not to be kept waiting. It is unfortunate that for speculative and irrelevant considerations, the engineer has withheld the NOC for almost 5 years," Justice Kathawalla said.

The bench while quashing the rejection order of the engineer, noted that the resident teachers have been forced to run from pillar to post and are awaiting the NOC for almost 5 years.

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