Errant, expired leases may go to free up more port land

  • Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 27, 2014 00:23 IST

Defunct, errant commercial leases on the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) land may be scrapped as part of the plan to develop the eastern waterfront.

In a significant move, sources in the shipping ministry have indicated that the leases that have violated norms may be reviewed and, if tenable, even scrapped.

At stake, of the 1,860 acres of port land, is 700-odd acres of land, which has been rented out to various entities, mostly storage godowns and warehouses.

Some sections in the MbPT are afraid that if these leases are extended, it could end up harming the long-term prospects of developing the land.
The MbPT has long- and short-term leases, ranging from a year to 15 to even 99 years.

Ministry sources told HT that they have instructed the MbPT and the land development committee (LDC) to study whether any leases can be scrapped in a legally sustainable way. Those supporting the move argued that most of the commercial structures are either lying unused or defunct, and are no longer relevant to the planned overhaul.

“They were allotted at a time when the port was very active. Now, these structures are just lying unused. Hence, they should be used for the city’s development,” said a source in the ministry.

Such a move, however, may not be as easy, as the tenants have been lobbying hard to retain their leases. Insiders believe that many of them, including corporate giants, will want to cash in on the regeneration of the port land.

The move has its background in a 2004 Supreme Court order where it had instructed the port trust to condone lease violations till September 2012, post which it was supposed to bring in a new, comprehensive policy and decide the fate of these leases afresh. “Using this, we can easily scrap tenancies that have conducted serious violations. But we must prepare for some backlash,” said a port trust official.

Union shipping secretary Dr Vishwapati Trivedi had earlier told HT that the ministry was examining the issue of leaseholders on port trust land. “This is a delicate issue and we must tread carefully. However, we are planning to set up special fast-track courts, which will decide the outcome of the legal tangles that many of these leases are caught in.”

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