Borivli-based Surti Developers, which is redeveloping a chawl in Vile Parle (East), obtained two plots of land for the project by forging a dead man’s signature, a petition filed in the high court in July has alleged.
In order to build on these plots, the builder obtained a power of attorney from a man called Alfred Gorishankar Bhatt, who died in 1980, says the petition filed by a group called the All Maharashtra Human Rights Welfare Association.
“The land records, however, show that Tokersi Premji Gala is paying the property tax for the plots,” said Mangesh Sirsat, the petitioner’s advocate.
Gala’s son Bhupen told HT that his father was shocked to learn that a builder was constructing towers on the plots.
“The property registration card filed with the Slum Rehabilitation Authority shows that the land belongs to us, yet the builder has submitted to the same body a power of attorney granted by someone else,” he said.
Surti Developers began redeveloping a chawl in Padri Wadi in 2004 on four plots of land, according to norms laid down by this Authority, an independent body set up about 15 years ago to rid the city of slums. Two of those plots are under contention. Arvind Surti, director of the Padri Wadi project, denied the allegations, claiming the firm had bought the land from MTNL, the state-run telecommunication firm.
S.S. Zende, who heads the slum agency, said he would submitting details about the project to the high court. “If the court finds any irregularity, a high-powered committee will review the project,” he said.
The petitioners say there are other discrepancies.
They claim that while the chawl had 56 units, the new subsidised structure has 80. “The builder constructed these extra flats using forged documents and has sold them,” said B. Rathod, a former resident of the chawl.
Arvind Surti denied this as well. According to the slum agency’s rules, a builder must resettle residents of a chawl or slum in a new building on the plot on which the original structure stands.
Those occupying one unit in the original structure are eligible for one 225-square-feet flat in the new building. Builders can then build another tower with the same number of flats and sell these at market rates, using the profit from this sale to fund the first structure.
Surti Developers has already re-housed residents of the chawl and is building two towers whose flats it will sell. It has already built four storeys of one tower.