The 31 tenants in the Sara and Sahara shopping centres, which is allegedly owned by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, will have to vacate the premises after the city civil court on Friday dismissed their appeal challenging the eviction notice.
While dismissing their appeal, Justice GA Sanap observed that the land belonged to the government of India and the tenants’ possession of the property was illegal.
The court has, however, stayed its order for six weeks to allow them time to approach the Bombay High Court. If they don’t move the higher court, the central public works department (CPWD) can take action and evict the tenants.
The tenants of the two shopping centres near Crawford Market had challenged the eviction order issued by the estate officer in December 2010-January 2011. Earlier, the estate officer had issued show cause notices in 2008.
Initially, the CPWD had issued the eviction notice, but the tenants had challenged it before the estate officer.
GR Sharma, the government’s special counsel, had argued that the land was originally leased out in 1939 by the erstwhile British government to a Mohamedbhoy Abdullabhai Moonim. The agreement was between the two parties, with no clause permitting sub-letting or handing over tenancy rights, Sharma said, pointing out that the deal also did not recognise that the rights would be passed to a leasee’s heir after the original tenant passed away.
Thus, when Moonim passed away in 1979, the ownership rights reverted to the government of India, Sharma argued.
In 2001, Global Marketing, a firm headed by convict Abdul Rehman sub-let the premises to another firm, Sara Associates, allegedly in connivance with officers from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Sara Associates then allowed tenants to open shops in the complex.
The alleged fraud came to light when Nafisa Shaikh, a hutment dweller, lodged a complaint with the court alleging that “Rehman boss” had threatened her to vacate her hut, which was blocking the entrance to the shopping centres.
Dawood’s brother, Iqbal Kaskar, was arrested for illegal construction on the plot, but the special court acquitted him for lack of evidence under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The court also acquitted builder Gulam Nabi Tanwar and four civic officials in 2007. It convicted three persons in the case.
2003: Hutment dweller Nafisa Shaikh files a police complaint that she is being forced to vacate her premises by convict Abdul Rehman as it blocks the entrance of the plot on which the Sara-Sahara shopping centres have been built. The plot is allegedly controlled by fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrhaim and his brother Iqbal Kaskar.
May 2006: Supreme Court orders demolition of seven illegal structures on the central public works department plot on which the Sara and Sahara shopping centres are also located.
July 2006: The BMC demolishes the seven structures.
2008: The central public works department issues eviction notice to 31 tenants in the two shopping centres, and tenants approach the estate officer. Estate officer issues show cause notices to them.
Dec 2010–Jan 2011: Estate officer issues eviction order.
May 2011: After tenants challenge order in city civil court, it rules that the tenants’ possession of the property is illegal.