HomeDaily NewsThe Indian Express: Mumbai: Public plot worth Rs 600 crore slips into private hands.

The Indian Express: Mumbai: Public plot worth Rs 600 crore slips into private hands.

The plot, situated at Majas in Jogeshwari, is worth Rs 600 crore. When Mumbai’s previous development plan (DP) was finalised in 1991, the plot was reserved for the construction of a public hospital, a recreation ground and houses.

A 3.4-acre plot in suburban Mumbai meant for public purposes slipped into private hands on Wednesday. Senior government sources blamed unexplained delays by the Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the acquisition of the reserved plot for the loss of a public plot.

The plot, situated at Majas in Jogeshwari, is worth Rs 600 crore. When Mumbai’s previous development plan (DP) was finalised in 1991, the plot was reserved for the construction of a public hospital, a recreation ground and houses. A portion of the land was also reserved for building two DP roads.

But the BMC failed to acquire the plot and develop the reservations. Eventually, on May 15, 2014, the plot’s owners – Gyanprakash Shukla and Kamalaprakash Shukla – served a purchase notice on the civic body citing relevant provisions of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966, which make it mandatory on the civic body to acquire a reserved plot within ten years after a DP comes into being. If the land is still not acquired within a year of the issuance of the notice, the reservations on the land lapse, and the owners are permitted to use it for commercial purposes.

After delaying the acquisition process over the legal validity of the plot owners’ notice, the BMC had eventually rejected it on February 7, 2015. But the formal land acquisition process was not initiated till October 11, 2017 and could not be completed. A notification regarding the land acquisition, as required by law, was not published.

The owners later challenged BMC’s move in the Bombay High Court (HC). On November 16 last year, the HC ruled in the owners’ favour, ordering the dereservation of the lands (excepting the portion reserved for roads). The court blamed the BMC for inordinate delays. It directed the state government to publish an order notifying the dereservation.

The matter had snowballed into a major controversy after it came to light that a file related to the plot, with civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta’s remarks, were tampered with. Following an internal inquiry, Mehta, in August this year, ordered suspension of three development plan department officials and a law department officer in the matter. Eight other officials, including former Chief Engineer (Development Plan) Sanjay Darade, are facing an inquiry.

“It is clear that concerted efforts involving many parties were made to ensure that the BMC, and in effect citizens were denied the use of the plot, which was reserved for a public purpose,” Mehta had remarked on the official file.

In a bid to save itself the embarrassment, the BMC filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, against the HC’s decision. But this was dismissed on July 23, 2018.

But just as the civic body has filed a fresh review petition in the HC over the controversy, the Chief Minister-led Urban Development (UD) department on Wednesday issued orders regarding the dereservation of the plot.