The court also pointed out that MHADA had made some mistakes in the layout plan it had submitted to the BMC.
Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Wednesday imposed a cost of Rs 2 lakh each on the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), a private trust and two housing societies for usurping two plots reserved as gardens in Juhu for constructing residential complexes.
A division bench of justices B.R. Gavai and Riyaz Chagla was hearing a petition by city-based NGO, Save Open Spaces against a March 2017 order of MHADA wherein it leased the plots to the trust and societies despite the reservations. MHADA had passed an order to execute lease deeds of two plots admeasuring 2,000 sq meters and 1,687 sq meters in favour of Juhuraj society and Juhu Lifestyle society as nominees of Anjuman Trust. The petition prayed for quashing the MHADA order and passing a declaration that the two plots were necessarily required to be kept as open space for garden.
After hearing the prayer, the bench observed, "As it is, the city is having very few open spaces, which are the lungs of the city. We have no hesitation in holding that an attempt to destroy the open spaces meant for garden with ulterior motive would be violative of the doctrine of public trust." It further chided MHADA for colluding with the trust and the societies to carry out the illegal act and said that the hasty manner in which the lease was executed was suspicious.
The court also pointed out that MHADA had made some mistakes in the layout plan it had submitted to the BMC in 1999 after which the land grabbers came up with the idea for usurping the two plots. The court also noted the role of S.S. Zende, former vice-president and CEO of MHADA in facilitating the lease despite a letter from MHADA to the BMC requesting to rectify the mistake in the layout plan. After quashing the MHADA order, the court imposed a cost of Rs 2 lakh each on MHADA, the trust and the societies ordered for the two plots to be kept as an open garden space and said no construction can be permitted on these two plots.
The petitioners declined to accept the costs imposed by the court and told the court that the amount should be donated to the State Legal Aid Fund.