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Calling for a quota

Day after Sharad Pawar demands housing quotas for Muslims, minister of state says plan is being put in place and will be announced after current Legislature session, reports Zeeshan Shaikh.

mumbai Updated: Apr 16, 2010 01:55 IST
Zeeshan Shaikh
Zeeshan Shaikh
Hindustan Times

On Wednesday, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar asked the state to consider reservations for Muslims in government housing projects. On Thursday, Minister of State for Housing Sachin Ahir said a plan is being formulated to make such reservations a reality and will be announced once the current session of the Legislature ends.

In a survey conducted by Hindustan Times and Ipsos Indica Research, 53 per cent of the respondents said the high prices meant only houses on the city’s outskirts were affordable; 39 per cent said they couldn’t imagine buying a house in Mumbai at the current rates.

Pawar, while suggesting the quota, was referring to the high rates as well as the discrimination faced by several Muslims while trying to buy a house. Among those who alleged that they were denied houses because of their faith were former MP and actress Shabana Azmi and actors Saif Ali Khan and Aamir Ali.

“I have come across several Muslims who have problems getting a house. Ahir should set up a committee to see if we can have reservations for them in government housing schemes,” Pawar said at a function celebrating the birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

“I have convened a meeting of officials to see how we can go ahead with this proposal. Care will be taken to ensure that the rights of other sections are not affected,” Ahir said.

This is not the first time a government constituent has demanded such reservations. In 2008, the Congress, which heads the ruling coalition, voiced a similar sentiment.

Then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh spoke up at a function organised by the Ministry of Minority Welfare. However, no concrete decision was taken.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, of the Congress, heads the Housing Department, which needs to take a final decision. Ahir, his junior minister, is from the NCP. The Congress and NCP will need to work out how to proceed with the proposal, which has run into opposition from the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “Why have reservations along religious lines,” asked senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde.

Legal options

Scenario One

You want to buy or rent a flat, but its owner does not want to sell or rent it because of your religion.

What the law says: There is nothing you can do about it. “The owner has absolute right to his property, and two willing parties are needed to enter into a contract to rent or own a property,” explained Mustafa Motiwala, a civil lawyer. “So even if it constitutes discrimination, there is little you can legally do to seek relief.”

Scenario two

You want to buy or rent a flat in a building that is not governed by the cooperative societies law, and the owner is willing, but the building association opposes it.

What the law says: Here, the owner has absolute rights to her or his property and land. About 30 per cent of Mumbai’s formal housing falls in this category, and this percentage is growing.

These associations are governed by the Apartment Ownership Act (1970). Here, the building’s residents have even less influence than residents in a cooperative housing society. If an owner wishes to sell or rent his property to someone, but the building association opposes it on grounds of the potential buyer’s religion, then the owner can move a civil court.

Scenario three

You want to buy or rent a flat in a cooperative housing society, and the owner is willing to sell or rent it, but the housing society opposes it because of your religion.

What the law says: Here, residents do not have individual rights to their property, but own it by virtue of being shareholders in the society. About 70 per cent of all formal housing in Mumbai falls in this category, according to Vinod Sampat, a property lawyer and president of the Cooperative Societies Residents’ Users and Welfare Association, a residents’ lobby.

Such housing is governed by the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act (1960). The law states that the society cannot deny anyone admission on the grounds of his or her religion. If a society opposes a sale or rental for such a reason, the flat’s owner can file a complaint with the Registrar of Cooperatives. The society’s managing committee, which takes the decision, must provide its reasons in writing to the flat owner as well as to the registrar.

“If two parties have agreed on a sale, and the cooperative society prevents it because of a person’s religious background, that is clearly against the law,” said Mahendra Kalyankari, the joint registrar of cooperative housing societies.

If the sale has already taken place, and the society’s managing committee subsequently denies the new owner membership, then he or she can again file a complaint with the registrar.

First Published: Apr 16, 2010 01:46 IST