A social activist has moved the Bombay high court over 4,400 leases executed by the BMC, by which nearly 6.48 crore square feet of the city was leased to private entities.
According to petitioner Shishir Dhavale, most of the land was leased out at token rates (usually Rs1 per annum) in the pre-independence era to to promote industrial growth, but the industries established on the land have either been shut down or permanently shifted out of the city.
The 48-year-old Dombivli resident has sought direction to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to reconsider these leases and take back the land.
In his public interest litigation (PIL) filed last month, Dhavale said that a prime condition for leasing civic land to private entities was to utilise the leased land only for the purpose for which those were allotted, and although most of the industries have closed, civic officials were allowing the land to be commercially exploited by the lessees. Worse still, not even a fraction of the amount earned by the lessees has reached the BMC coffers, the PIL states.
Dhavale has sought that a retired high court judge be appointed to examine the issue and submit a report to the court on how to ensure the public exchequer did not lose money because of these leases, and how to recover the loss caused by the wrongful commercial exploitation of the land.
He has also sought orders restraining BMC from allowing any lessee to deviate from the agreed lease terms (so as to commercially exploit the leased property), with the permission of the municipal commissioner or otherwise.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Niteen Jamdar on Wednesday directed the BMC and the Maharashtra government to file, within three weeks, affidavits replying to the PIL. The PIL will come up for further hearing after four weeks.