For 18 years now, an open-air theatre, belonging to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), for the western suburbs has been ‘under construction’.
Now, a Bandra-based activist has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the civic body and the developers objecting the delay.
The BMC had, in 1992, leased out a plot measuring almost 4,000 sq m for 30 years, to the Kamla Raheja Foundation to reconstruct the existing Bal Gandharva Open air theatre.
However, the agreement failed to specify any deadline for the foundation to rebuild the theatre.
So many years later, the plot is a far cry from what it used to once be.
Ranjana Barve (61), a resident of Linking Road, Bandra (W), said: “I remember that this place was the hub of all cultural and entertainment activities in this area.”
Barve recollects how the theatre used to house Marathi, Hindi and even Gujarati plays.
The BMC officials, on their part, plead helplessness. A senior civic official, on condition of anonymity, said that the BMC has little role to play in it.
“We have officially leased out the plot for 30 years, without giving them a deadline for reconstructing the theatre. Hence, there’s nothing legally wrong with the current status of the plot.”
Another civic official, from the H West Ward said that as long as the BMC gets its annual rent from the foundation, there’s no reason to revoke the lease. “According to the agreement, the foundation pays the civic body an annual sum of Rs 3.75 lakh rupees as rent for the plot. Hence, what they do with the plot is not our lookout, till the lease expires.”
The petition filed by Siddiqui, however, questions this and says that the delay in construction is bound to cause the civic body a financial loss. “The foundation was supposed to pay the civic body license fees for any cultural or entertainment shows that would have been conducted in the theatre.
The civic body has lost out on all the revenue that could have been garnered in the last 18 years,” the petition says.
When contacted, Gopal Raheja, from Kamla Raheja Foundation declined a comment on the issue. “The matter is subjudice. So, we’ll file an affidavit in reply to the petition soon.”