In a significant judgment, the Bombay high court has ruled that the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) has powers under the Mhada Act to initiate action against a tenant who is unwilling to vacate premises by breaking open the lock securing the premises.
Justice SC Dharmadhikari on Wednesday, while hearing a petition field by Siddiqui Israr Ahmed Mohammed Alam, observed that the development authority had the power to initiate action if the tenant refused to vacate premises even after accepting a cheque towards rent for alternative accommodation.
Alam, a tenant in a shop in Devji Dharsi building at Nagpada, had filed a petition seeking stay on an eviction notice issued to him by Mhada.
Alam alleges in the petition that in August 2010, the developers and their agents started threatening them of forcible dispossession.
In May 2008, the owners of the buildings proposed redevelopment and agreed to sell the plot to Lakdawala Developers. Accordingly, the developer approached the tenants for consent. Even Alam consented to the redevelopment, states his petition.
On December 20, 2009, Alam’s brother, Ashfaq Ahmed was handed over two cheques totalling Rs7.2 lakh by Lakdawala. This was towards rent for the alternate transit accommodation for 24 months, where the Alams were to shift while the redevelopment was carried out. A draft copy of the agreement was also given to Ashfaq.
On December 29, 2010, Alam found a notice pasted outside his shop asking him to vacate the premises within seven days or face summary eviction under Section 95(A) of the Mhada Act. Another notice was sent to him on January 3, 2010 where he was given 48 hours to vacate the premises or eviction proceedings would be initiated.
Alam sent a complaint to the assistant commissioner of police informing about the threat and sought protection. Alam has claimed that they even wrote to the developers asking them to identify position of their shop in the proposed construction.
GW Mattos, counsel for Mhada, argued that petitioner had agreed to vacate the premises after seeing the particulars of permanent accommodation in the proposed plan.
Mattos pointed out that in cases where adverse orders were passed against tenants, in order to frustrate the summary eviction, non-cooperative tenants lock their premises and go away.
When Mhada officers try to break open the lock under panchnama, they are threatened with criminal action for house breaking and theft.
Justice Dharmadhikari ruled that in the event of premises being found locked, Mhada could break open the lock under police protection while implementing summary eviction under Section 95(A) of the Mhada Act.