Mumbai slum development project gets HC nod, relief to Shapoorji group
In a relief to the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, the Bombay high court has cleared the way for its subsidiary to carry out a slum rehabilitation project in about 113,321.54 square meters in the Cuffe Parade area near the World Trade Centre in South Mumbai.
The Court observed that the slum dwellers have been waiting for rehabilitation since over two decades and such schemes are implemented to mitigate the hardship of the slum dwellers and they should not be casually set aside by the writ courts only on technical grounds unless a case of gross illegalities or failure of justice is made out.
A division bench of justice Nitin Jadhav and justice Milind Jadhav heard the petition challenging the decision of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to assign the redevelopment project to Precaution Properties Pvt Ltd. The petition was filed by Dyna Estate Pvt Ltd and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar Sahakari Griha Nirman Sanstha, both represented by senior advocate Birendra Saraf.
Saraf further told the court that the petition also challenged the February, 2020 order of the Apex Grievance Redressal Committee, which rejected the challenge to the grant of the project.
The petitioners also challenged clause 6 of the 2017 circular which allowed the project to be given to Precaution after considering the net worth of its holding company.
Precaution, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shapoorji Pallonji Group, objected to the petition, stating that the petitioners claim was only over 6% of the land and the petitioners did not present any credible alternative to Precaution’s scheme.
Advocate Aspi Chinoy, representing Precaution, further argued to limit the judicial scrutiny of the legality of the Letter of Intent (LOI) and opposed a free-ranging enquiry of issues no longer relevant.
The court observed that the petitioners’ proposal was only for 7252 sq. meters, approximately 6.4% of land earmarked by Precaution for the redevelopment project. “No alternative is presented before us by the petitioners for the entire land,” the court said.
The court further held that there was no merit in the objections with regards to the financial capacity of Precaution.
“Because the circular has only clarified the position which was never prohibited, it cannot be said that the stipulation was brought into force on the date of the circular, i.e. January 2, 2017 and that there was earlier an embargo on considering the financial capacity of the holding company. Therefore no challenge can be raised on the ground that it cannot be made applicable to the pending applications,” the court said.
The bench concluded that piecemeal implementation of the scheme is not viable and that the firm’s project had the backing of close to 85% of the affected slum dwellers.
“84% of eligible slum dwellers of 23 co-operative housing societies are supporting Precaution’s proposal. The financial position of Precaution and its holding company has been found sufficiently robust to ensure that the project is completed and the slum dwellers are housed,” the court said.
The court also had a word of advice for the writ courts as it called for keeping the hardships of the slum dwellers in mind before casting such projects aside.
“Ultimately such schemes are implemented to mitigate the hardship of the slum dwellers and they should not casually be set aside by the writ courts only on technical grounds, unless a case of gross illegalities or failure of justice is made out,” it concluded.
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