The state can’t directly acquire a private property encroached by slums for rehabilitation of slums, unless an opportunity is given to the landowner first to come up with a rehabilitation scheme, ruled the Bombay High Court on Wednesday.
“The acquisition is vitiated as the landowner’s right under section 13(1) of the Act (Maharashtra Slum Areas Act, 1971),” observed the division bench of Justice BH Marlapalle and Justice Roshan Dalvi while setting aside an acquisition of a private plot admeasuring 1,830 sq m at Andheri (East).
The plot, owned by Anil Shah and some others, was acquired along with some other properties for slum rehabilitation in Saiwadi without giving an opportunity to the landowners to come up with a rehabilitation scheme as required under the legislation.
The bench further observed that, “When scheme of the Act has set out various steps for undertaking rehabilitation schemes, it is mandatory to take all steps before issuing Letters of Intent.”
The court also censured the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). “It is not known why SRA was in such a hurry and it did not even think to apply its mind to the requirements of the Act,” observed the bench.
“The whole process appears to have been short circuited,” the judges added. The bench struck down a government notification saying, “Works of improvements and rehabilitation of slum dwellers cannot go together under the scheme of the Act.”
The notification was issued by the housing department on May 6, 1999, for redevelopment of entire Saiwadi area — covering 44,330 sq m, which also covered the private property. The notification was issued for acquiring the private land for “works of improvement”, which the court said was just a facade.