The Bombay high court (HC) on Friday directed the state to take over two lakes at Eksar in Borivli, whose size was reduced purportedly by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Gopal Shetty to carry out unauthorised construction work.
A division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Prakash Naik was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activists Edwin Britto and Meera Kamath, alleging the smaller of the two lakes was reclaimed completely and the other was reduced in size to create an unauthorized walkway. The petitioner alleged after the unauthorised construction, the area was handed over to Poisar Gymkhana, which is controlled by the MP.
According to the PIL, the revenue and forest department in September 2007 granted Shetty the permission to beautify both the lakes. In May 2008, the collector and the department refused permission to reclaim the smaller lake and to carry out construction over it, but following a minister’s remarks in August 2008, they were given a nod to construct up to an FSI of 0.4, alleged the PIL.
The judges held there was gross illegality in the manner a lake disappeared and the size of another was reduced to its two-third, after the MP carried out the beautification work without permission from the civic authorities. The constructions included a statue of Rani Laxmibai, a walking track along the border of the bigger lake and boating facilities. The Poisar Gymkhana is charging an entry fee and extra for the boating facilities.
The judges said while it was true the surroundings of the bigger lake were beautified using the MLA fund, neither Shetty nor the gymkhana can claim any right over the land and lakes. It added if the gymkhana wants to continue with its possession, it will have to send an application to the collector for grant of permission, subject to a condition that the original area of both the lakes will be restored.
The court directed the collector to decide, if any such an application is made within six weeks. The HC has now directed the government to take both the lakes in its possession and take steps to demolish the unauthorized construction put up by encroaching upon the lakes, and restore the lakes to their original size within nine months. The court has granted the Mumbai suburban district collector four months to take possession of the lakes.