Wilson College Gymkhana Dispute: Another Trust Moves HC Over Cancellation Of Lease

Wilson College Gymkhana Dispute: Another Trust Moves HC Over Cancellation Of Lease

The UCNITA is the custodian of properties belonging to the Church of North India. However, there are two groups of trustees, both claiming to be the authorised custodian of the properties.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Saturday, June 01, 2024, 02:18 AM IST
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Wilson College Gymkhana Dispute: Another Trust Moves HC Over Cancellation Of Lease |

A second group of members from the Church of North India (CNI) has approached the Bombay High Court in the dispute over the handing over of the Wilson College Gymkhana on Marine Drive to the Jain International Organisation (JIO).

The court is already hearing a writ petition by the United Church of North India Trust Association (UCNITA), the trust that owned the gymkhana lease, challenging the Mumbai District Collector's cancellation of the lease on the 114-year-old gymkhana. The petition is listed for hearing on June 10.

The court will hear the second petition, filed by another trust claiming to be the real UCNITA, on June 11. The alumni association of Wilson College, Chowpatty, has also filed an interim application, seeking inclusion in the petition. The UCNITA is the custodian of properties belonging to the CNI, a Protestant church. However, there are two groups of trustees, both claiming to be the authorised custodian of the properties.

The lease on the gymkhana had been with the college for over a century. On March 16, the Maharashtra government passed a government resolution (GR), giving the 1.02 lakh square-meter plot to JIO.

The lease deed between the government and UCNITA signed in September 1998 had expired in December 1999. Under new lease policy rules, the college was allowed to use the gymkhana at a higher lease rent.

On December 5, 2023, the Collector of Mumbai ordered the acquisition of the gymkhana land, citing violations and breach of the lease agreement. The trust challenged the Collector's decision before the Maharashtra Land Revenue Tribunal, but the court confirmed the order of the Collector in an order dated March 11, 2024.

The GR, which handed over the gymkhana for 30 years to JIO, says that the BMC's permission is needed before any construction on the land. As the land falls under the Coastal Regulation Zone, permission is required from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority before using the land. Also, since the gymkhana is a protected Grade II heritage precinct under municipal rules, permissions are needed from the Heritage Conservation Committee before any changes in the ground.

After the loss of the gymkhana, an inquiry committee was formed by the John Wilson Education Society, the college's managing trust, UCNITA and CNI, to find out how the lease on the playground was canceled. The committee has yet to submit its report.

Church members said that they hoped the gymkhana remained open for the sports. “We want the land to be used as a playground for youth, students, and the public at large only for sports activities,” said advocate Cyril Dara, church activist and Secretary of Christian Reform United People Associations.

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