SC comes to Mumbai slum dwellers’ aid, asks SRA to rehabilitate them
The SC has also laid down a condition that the successful bidder must give a Rs200 crore bank guaranteeUpdated: Jan 05, 2018 00:18 IST
Coming to the aid of 800 Mumbai slum-dwellers locked in a legal battle with developers for over 30 years, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to step in and ensure development of the slum and rehabilitate the slum dwellers in proper accommodation within two years from sanction of development plan.
A bench of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta directed the SRA to invite letters of interest from renowned builders for the development of 23,018.50 square meters of land situated in the heart of Mumbai, Santacruz (East) and make housing units for the slum dwellers. To ensure that developers/builders do not take the slum dwellers for a ride, the SC has also laid down a condition that the successful bidder must give a Rs200 crore bank guarantee. “In case of violation of the terms and conditions of the rehabilitation scheme without reasonable cause the SRA will be entitled to invoke the bank guarantee,” ruled the apex court.
The case relates to a piece of land measuring 23,018.50 square meters in Santacruz (East) belonging to the Ardeshir Cursetji Pestonji Wadia Trust and over which slum had come up. Later, the Trust had transferred the entire land to the slum-dwellers.
Subsequently, the slum dwellers entered an agreement with a builder to make dwelling units for them on the condition that houses would be built on 11,000 square metres of land and the remaining 12,497 square metres was to be developed for the purpose of free sale by the builder.
However, over a period of time differences arose between the slum-dwellers association and the builder and the housing project could not take off.
Well-known real estate lawyer Vinod Sampat welcomed the verdict, calling it a good move that will ensure accountability in slum revamp schemes. “The expression of tenders will ensure transparency, unlike now where slum-dwellers are induced with unrealistic and misleading promises,” he said.
“The bank guarantee of Rs200 crore will keep away fly-by-night operators and only renowned builders with adequate funds and expertise will take part in this project,” said Sampat.
Housing activist Simpreet Singh said the SC’s verdict has put the onus on the builders. He said previously, there was no binding on the builders to execute projects. “Hence we saw many anti-social elements just obtaining consents despite having no competency to execute the projects. This move will ensure serious players in the slum rehabilitation schemes,” said Singh.
In its verdict delivered on Wednesday, the court observed that the slum-dwellers continued to live in “sordid conditions” despite having entered into an agreement with developers more than 30 years ago.
Ruing the state of affairs, the court said, “A dream (has) turned into a nightmare. The dream of over 800 slum dwellers who also happen to be owners of the land of having a permanent roof over their head has not turned into reality for more than three decades.”
The court also carved out a compensation, saying, “Keeping in view the fact that the slum dwellers are also the owners, the developers may also indicate what benefit they will give to the members of the Society either in cash or in kind by means of giving additional built-up area out of their own free sale area to such members of the Society.”