HC denies BMC’s attempt to reopen issue of ownership of 723 acres land in Oshiwara
The then principal collector for Konkan had in October 1860 allotted the 723-acre land of Oshiwara village to the predecessor of Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Pvt Ltd free of cost
Mumbai The Bombay high court (HC) has shot down the attempt by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to reopen the issue of ownership of the 723 acres land at Oshiwara, purportedly to save large sums of money required to acquire 64.75 acres of it for sewerage purification system.
The division bench of justice RD Dhanuka and justice MG Sewlikar on Monday struck down orders passed by the state government on December 31, 2020 and January 8, 2021, granting permission to the BMC to seek review of a January 1965 order passed by then additional collector, upholding April 1964 decision of the Mamlatdar that the land was not a “waste land” and therefore cannot be declared a state property under provisions of the Salsette Estates (Land Revenue Exemption Abolition) Act, 1951.
The then principal collector for Konkan had in October 1860 allotted the 723-acre land of Oshiwara village to the predecessor of Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Pvt Ltd free of cost. Over the period of time, the salt pan owners sold a chunk of the lands to various parties and as a result, around 230 acres of the property is developed and comprises the five large layouts of Lokhandwala Complex - Apna Ghar, Swami Samarth, Yamuna Nagar, Indra Darshan and Millat Nagar - spread over 260 buildings and two shopping malls.
Besides, over 177 acres of the land was acquired by Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) for constructing public housing projects.
In April 1964, the Mamlatdar, Andheri had completed his enquiry into the land and held that none of its portions were “wasteland” and the allottee had appropriated the lands and therefore no part of it could be declared a state property under the Salsette Estates Act, 1951. On January 9 1965, the additional collector had dismissed an appeal filed by the state government, challenging the decision of the Mamlatdar.
After a long gap, on June 20 2019, the BMC filed a plea before the divisional commissioner, Konkan, seeking review of the January 1965 order, about a fortnight after a meeting of senior bureaucrats – the chief secretary, additional chief secretary, revenue and forest department, BMC commissioner and the district collector.
The associations of co-operative housing societies in Lokhandwala complex and other stakeholders like Oshiwara Land Development Company Pvt Ltd. had moved the high court after the state government by the two orders allowed the divisional commissioner to review the January 1965 order on merits.
The petitioners primarily contended that time and again BMC has conceded their ownership over the pieces of lands held by them and granted various permissions for development of the properties spread over the area and also granted TDR for the areas acquired for public amenities within the layouts, and therefore the civic body cannot be allowed now to question their ownership.
The state government and the BMC opposed the petitions, primarily on technical grounds, but failed to impress upon the high court.
HC on Monday struck down the orders, observing that under provisions of the Maharashtra Land Revenue (MLR) Code, the state government can exercise the power to grant permission for seeking review of a revenue officer’s order after expiry of five years only if the case is decided by the officer on the basis of false and insufficient information.
“The application filed by Respondent no 3 (BMC), who was not admittedly a party to the original proceedings before the Mamlatdar or the additional collector, applied for permission to file the revision application basically on the ground that huge amount of public money is required to be paid in acquiring the lands i.e. 64.75 acres used for the SPS (sewerage purification system),” said the court.
“In our view, since the order passed by the state government granting such permission after expiry of 55 years entails civil consequences and would affect large numbers of flats /unit holders in whose favour rights are already vested, the state government could not have passed such order mechanically and that also without application of mind and without following the principles of natural justice,” the court added.