MUMBAI: Rewarding encroachers with free land at public cost is something that happens only in Maharashtra, Bombay high court observed on Wednesday.
“If they encroach upon forest land, the government will notify another land free of cost. It’s a bonus on illegality. A premium on it. Then they (encroachers) will sell it again. It is peculiar to Maharashtra and nowhere in the country,” said a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni.
The court heard a 2009 public interest litigation by NGO Janhit Manch on how allottees in various slum rehabilitation schemes illegally sell flats at a premium even though there is a lock-in period of 10 years. It states not only is the object of Slum Rehabilitation Scheme defeated but there is loss to the public exchequer. It cited the case of encroachers in Sanjay Gandhi National Park who were to rehabilitated in 225-square-foot carpet area flats in Chandivali, Andheri, in 30 seven-storey buildings.
The Manch’s founder Bhagwanji Raiyani argued the sale should not be regularised. The judges then also observed there are two categories of citizens—those who abide by the law and those who do not. “Those encroaching and doing illegalities are benefited. Those who abide will always be without a roof,” said Justice Kulkarni.
The judges noted in October 2015 the state was directed to conduct a survey of all slum rehabilitation schemes to ascertain if there were transfers by allottees within 10 years of allotment date and after expiry of 10 years with Slum Rehabilitation Authority’s permission. HC was told an agency was identified for the survey. “Five years have passed. Nothing is reported to the court,” said the CJ. The judges directed the state to inform about the survey and steps taken pursuant to it on March 10.