Defending the controversial slum rehabilitation scheme, the state government on Wednesday informed the Bombay high court that the scheme was enacted to enable slumdwellers to live in good homes with dignity.
The state said that it was not possible to give notices and hear grievances of every affected person, and some compromise to natural justice may have to be made to implement the scheme.
The statements were made during the final stages of hearing in a case which could have far-reaching implications on ongoing and future Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) projects in the state. The petition, filed by Bandra resident Sara D’mello, challenges the constitutional validity of section 14 of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, pertaining to the power of the state to acquire land for these projects.
The petitioner also challenged a show cause notice issued by the additional collector in 1998 and a notification by the government in 2003 to acquire her prime property measuring 1,575 sq m in Bandra for an SRA project. Following her 2003 petition, the court had granted a stay on the acquisition.
The state, through assistant government pleader GW Mattos, contended that the land acquisitions under SRA are valid for providing permanent alternative accommodation to slumdwellers, who live in squalor and unsanitary conditions.“The purpose of acquisition for a public purpose satisfies the constitutional mandate for acquisition of the land under the constitution of India,” stated an affidavit filed by Sanjay Ingle, under secretary to the housing department.
D’mello contended that before any acquisition notice is issued, the state hears objections to the project, but there is no proper procedure for acquiring the land or compensating the expropriated owner.
The petitioner told the division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Anoop Mohta that the collector passes the land to slum rehabilitation authorities, who in turn transfer it to builders for a hefty sum, while the owner is given a paltry amount. Under the Act, such acquisition is valid only if the expropriated owner is paid an amount which is not illusory, petition states.
The state stood by its argument that sufficient hearing is given and the owner is compensated as per procedure laid down by the Act. The HC however observed the benefit goes to the builder. The hearing will continue on Thursday.