79 years on, woman to get back possession of two family-owned SoBo flats
A south Mumbai resident will soon get back possession of her family's flats, nearly 79 years after they were taken over by the Bombay Municipality. The Bombay High Court has asked the state government to evict the current occupants within eight weeks. The legal heirs of the occupants argued that the Controller of Accommodation had no jurisdiction to pass the eviction orders as the flats were requisitioned well before the Maharashtra Land Requisition Act was enacted. However, the court rejected their argument and said the requisition continued until the property was given back to the owners.
A south Mumbai resident, Alice D’souza, will soon get back possession of her family’s two lavish flats, nearly 79 years after they were taken over by the erstwhile Bombay Municipality, as the Bombay high court has asked the state government to evict the current occupants within eight weeks.
The Bombay Municipality had in July 1944 offered civil supplies department officer, D S Laud, accommodation in flat no. 4 and 5 in Ruby Mansion near Metro Cinema. On July 24, 1946, the collector declared that the requisition was withdrawn and three days later, issued an order for handing over the flats to the owners. However, the Lauds refused to vacate the houses.
In May 1987, the owners requested the state government and the collector to release the property from requisition and later approached the HC.
Meanwhile, after two rounds of hearing on their writ petitions in the HC, the Controller of Accommodation in November 2009 issued eviction notices under section 8C (2) of the Maharashtra Land Requisition Act, 1948, to the occupants. The Controller of Accommodation also issued two orders in June and July 2010, asking them to vacate the premises within 30 days of receiving copies of the orders.
The legal heirs of Lauds moved the appellate authority, but it upheld the Controller of Accommodation orders through a judgment on August 26, 2011. The occupants in 2012 approached the high court.
Before the high court, the counsel for the occupants claimed that the Controller of Accommodation had no jurisdiction to pass the eviction orders as the flats were requisitioned well before the Maharashtra Land Requisition Act was enacted.
On Thursday, a division bench of justice R D Dhanuka and justice M M Sathaye rejected their argument and said the requisition comes to an end only after handing back possession of the premises to the landlords. But, in this case, the property was not given back to the owners despite an order by the collector, and therefore the requisition continued, and the Controller of Accommodation had the jurisdiction, the bench said.
The court also rejected the occupants’ claim that they had become tenants as they paid rent for the premises and relied on some rent receipts issued by the property owners and contended that they could only be evicted through appropriate suits.
“The payment of compensation/rent by DS Laud and his heirs and the acceptance thereof by the owners of the premises cannot have any effect on changing the original legal relationship between the occupants and the owners of the requisitioned premises,” the bench said.
“There is no perversity or error apparent on the face of the record and the impugned orders are based on material available before the authority having jurisdiction, leading to probable findings, not requiring any interference within our limited jurisdiction,” it added.
The HC directed the state government to take over the two flats from the possession of Siddharth Fondekar, who resides in flat no. 4, and the family of Mangesh Laud, who occupied flat no. 5, and handed them over to the legal heir, Alice D’souza, within eight weeks.