The state’s urban development department chose a short cut to change the reservation of the plot reserved for a BEST depot into a residential one for the benefit of the controversial tower in Colaba.
The notification was carried out under Section 50 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act (MRTP) on March 3, 2006. The affidavit filed by the UDD before the Adarsh inquiry commission on Friday says the decision was taken after considering the letter/report from assistant general manager of the BEST undertaking.
But, it adds, “the letter cannot be treated as an NOC/request from BEST for the purpose of Section 50 of the MRTP Act. The proper procedure would have been to resort to the provisions of Section 37 of the MRTP Act.”
Under Section 37, the planning authority (in this case MMRDA) can change reservation of a plot but only after seeking objections and suggestions from the public and giving notice to persons affected by the modification and giving them a hearing. This procedure would have taken at least six months.
Instead, the UDD issued notice under Section 50 of the MRTP Act. Under this, if the appropriate authority (in this case BEST) is satisfied that the land is no longer required for the public purpose it had been reserved, it could request the government to delete this modification.
Section 50 does not require objections and suggestions to be sought.
But, in the case of Adarsh, the letter from BEST (enclosed by UDD in its affidavit) could not be read as such a request. The letter dated January 12, 2005, says, ‘Backbay bus depot has been in use since 1976 and this land is being used as an access road to the depot. In future, too, we will need this access road. Keep the welfare of the BEST in mind, leave the access road of at least 44.40 metres and then take an appropriate decision on the application of Adarsh society.’
What could add to Deshmukh’s troubles is that former UDD secretary Ramanand Tiwari in his affidavit specifically mentioned that the March 2006 notification was issued after approval of the then UDD minister and chief minister.
Tiwari has also said that he processed society’s application seeking FSI of the adjoining BEST plot in 2005 by sending the file to the chief minister with two recommendations.
These recommendations were that MMRDA (planning authority for Backbay Reclamation ) should be issued direction under Section 37 (1) of the MRTP Act to initiate the process and the society would have to get the areas merged.
However, CM sent the file back asking whether it was necessary to initiate the process as suggested to allow use of FSI in the adjacent land. After this, the decision was reconsidered and it was decided to issue notification under Section 50 of the MRTP Act.