The Bombay High Court last week directed the Thane collector to register an FIR against officers of the revenue department and city survey office and a local builder in a land grab case. The three purportedly helped usurp salt pan land admeasuring 11,000 square metres at Vasai, valued at more than Rs 250 crore.
The directive came after the division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Roshan Dalvi noticed that the culprits had used a novel modus operandi to usurp the land.
According to Sanjay Sethi, who brought the matter to the notice of the high court through public interest litigation, the builder, Ajay Wade and Associates, purchased five adjoining sub-plots admeasuring 1406.79 square metres, executing five sale-purchase deeds.
But, when the revenue officer concerned reduced the sale deeds into mutation entries, the area of the four sub-plots were increased by putting a digit ahead of the total area. Thus, the area of a sub-plot admeasuring 384.88 square metres became 2,384.48 square meters, another sub-plot admeasuring 325.28 square metres became 2325.28 square metres, 325.88 square meters became 4325.28 square meters, and the area of the fourth sub-plot admeasuring 371.75 square metres became 3371.75 square metres.
The judges were irked to note from an affidavit filed by Dr. S. Mukherjee, assistant salt commissioner, that almost 11,000 square metres was deleted in this fashion from adjoining salt pan land, owned by the State Government, and added to the land owned by the builder.
Another fact that annoyed the judges was the report of Anil Lokhande, district superintendent of land records, Thane, that a large portion of the land had been utilised to construct a housing society and a hotel.
“Prima facie, this appears to be a very serious matter,” the judges noted in their earlier order on the PIL filed by Sethi through advocate Ashok Sarogi. The court has now posted the matter for further hearing on September 28.