Held up for 49 yrs, HC paves way for revamp of Santacruz society
No less than 49 years after they opted for it, the redevelopment dream of nearly 230 families living in a cooperative housing society in Santacruz (West) will finally come true.
The Bombay high court last week paved the way for the redevelopment of the 48,000-squaremetre Willingdon Colony by dismissing a petition filed by a group of minority members opposing the scheme. This was the fourth round of litigation that began immediately after the society decided to go for redevelopment in 1966.
According to the sanctioned scheme, the developer is to construct 673 flats on 32,576 sqm of land to be used as permanent alternate accommodation for 230 members of the Bombay Catholic Cooperative Housing Society. The remaining flats can be sold. The developer is also supposed to construct a separate building on 13,961 sqm of land and provide 530 tenements free of cost to the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). These tenements will be used as transit accommodation for slum dwellers affected by rehabilitation schemes.
A group of six society members had approached the high court this year, challenging an order by the tree authority permitting the developer to transplant 103 trees to redevelop the property. The minority members moved the high court even though the Supreme Court had last year imposed a penalty of Rs1 crore on them for ‘abusing the process of law and wasting innumerably court hours’ in an earlier round of litigation.
The colony was constructed in 1930 and in September 1966, the society had passed a resolution in favour of redevelopment. The minority members challenged the validity of the resolution and the challenge was dismissed by high court in April 1972. Terming the petition as frivolous, the court had held that the cooperative society alone had absolute right on the property and once the overwhelming majority passed a resolution at its general body meeting, all members were bound by it.
In another petition decided by the high court in August 2012, it was recorded that the parties were litigating for more than 40 years even though the case had been decided in 1972. The order further recorded the litigation appeared to be instituted and sponsored by a rival builder, who had the support of the minority members. This order of the high court was carried by the minority group to the Apex Court, which dismissed their appeal in March 2013.
The third round of litigation began before the high-powered committee and was again carried to the high court, which rejected the challenge in March 2014.
Carrying this third round of litigation the Supreme Court proved to be costly for the minority group. On September 26, 2014, the Apex Court not only dismissed their petition, but also imposed a punitive cost of Rs1 crore for ‘pursuing a frivolous litigation.’ The Apex Court had directed the petitioner group to deposit a sum of Rs50 lakh with the Supreme Court Employees Welfare Fund, and the balance amount of Rs50 lakh was to be deposited with the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Welfare Trust.
After finding that the amount of cost imposed by the Apex Court has not yet been paid by the petitioners, the division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and justice AK Menon asked the housing society and the developer to deduct in four weeks the sum from amounts payable to the six petitioners and transmit it to the secretary general of the Supreme Court.