The Bombay high court on Wednesday heavily censured the city collector, Ashwini Joshi, for her “high-handedness” in dealing with the Cambata Aviation-Eros building dispute and directed chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to “personally look into Joshi’s conduct”.
A bench of justice VM Kanade and justice PR Bora ruled that Joshi’s decision to seal the Eros building earlier this year, and her consequent actions in dealing with the dispute between the state and Cambata Aviation, the lessee of the Eros building, “was most arbitrary and an overreach of her jurisdiction”.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by the SC Cambata Trust challenging a show-cause notice issued to them by the collector’s office on February 14 this year for allegedly violating the terms of its lease.
Joshi had asked the trust to respond to the allegations that it had illegally allowed for mobile towers to be installed on the terrace of the Eros building and also created third-party tenancy rights. The trust approached the high court challenging the notice.
The collector had also scheduled a hearing at her office for Wednesday morning that was to run simultaneously to the hearing in HC.
Cambata trust, however, argued in HC that the collector did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter as the state government was the owner of the land and the one to have leased it out.
At this, the bench agreed that Joshi didn’t have the requisite jurisdiction and ordered that her hearing be aborted at the very minute.
“Just because you are the owner of the land it does not mean that you inherit jurisdiction. Is this the way a government acts? Is the collector not bound by statutory provisions, or by the court’s orders? This conduct is definitely malafide. Is this a way to make money for the state?” the bench said.
“The manner in which the collector is proceeding in this matter, and also her past conduct, leaves no doubt in our minds that she is bent upon passing an adverse order without giving proper hearing to the petitioner,” the bench said.
“We want to find out if she is behaving like this on her own accord or at the behest of the government or the cabinet,” it said.
It stayed the show-cause notice issued to the trust till further orders and directed the state principal secretary to file an affidavit on the episode within four weeks.
In January this year, Joshi had sealed the iconic Eros building in the middle of the day, forcing out public from the film theatre, restaurants, and offices in the building. Another bench of HC had ordered that the building be de-sealed and observed at the time that Joshi’s action was arbitrary.