The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday rapped the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation for encroaching upon two plots owned by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and forcibly converting them into a private garden attached to the mayor’s bungalow.
“When you are supposed to prevent encroachments by others, you are indulging in encroachments,” said a division bench of chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice MS Sonak. “The way you exercised authority is not appreciated,” the judges told NMMC counsel Sandip Marne. “On the other hand, we condemn it.”
The comment came after Marne submitted that CIDCO always intended to allot the plots to the civic body and it cancelled the allotment of the two plots to private parties. The bench has directed the NMMC to clarify its stand on whether it wishes to return the land or pay market price for the plots.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Pravin Upadhyay in October 2014, complaining that public funds were used to develop and maintain a private garden for the mayor’s bungalow. His petition said CIDCO had refused permission for change of user from residential to private utilities or garden in respect of six plots admeasuring about 3,000 square metres on Parsik Hills.
Marne said the municipal corporation converted the plots into private garden because of apprehensions that residential development of the plots would have posed a security threat to the mayor’s bungalow.
After the judges questioned if a security audit was conducted or if there were intelligence reports pointing towards the security threat, Marne said the garden is now thrown open to public.
This prompted the judges to question what happened to the security concerns. They noted CIDCO refused to convert the plots into garden as it would affect their financial stability as it raises revenue only from sale of plots. The bench also took note of the submissions made on behalf of CIDCO that there were already enough public gardens and amenities provided in the comprehensive development plan and therefore it was not necessary for it to change the user.
The court then left to CIDCO to take a call whether or not to give permission for change user of the land and adjourned the hearing of the PIL after two weeks. At the same time, the bench also directed NMMC to file an affidavit making clear its stand about the plots – either to handover the plots back to CIDCO or pay the market price.