Is state land ‘paternal property’ of executive? HC asks Maharashtra government

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The Bombay High Court has pulled up the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai civic body over rampant illegal construction in the city, saying it appeared the “state’s property was the paternal property of the executive”. A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni made the remark on Tuesday while hearing a public interest litigation taken up suo motu (on its own) last year on illegal constructions across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) after the collapse of a building in Bhiwandi town of neighbouring Thane district.

Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy along with advocate Joel Carlos, representing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), submitted that the state’s slum rehabilitation policy protected encroachers.

Hence, the civic body could not take action against them under provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act. The BMC had a limited role to play as an outsider authority, they said.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the Maharashtra government, told the HC that the state government’s slum rehabilitation policies granted statutory protection against the demolition of structures, constructed before January 1, 2000, and not higher than 14 feet.

He said the structures of slum dwellers holding valid photo passes were protected and could not be demolished under the slum rehabilitation policies.

Kumbhakoni said successive governments had extended the cut-off date for protecting tenements in notified slum areas till 2000.

The high court said this translated into legitimising encroachers on government land.

“The moment you (state) bring them under a beneficial scheme, state land and corporation lands are written off,” the HC said.

“It seems like the state’s property is the paternal property of the executive,” the court remarked.

The HC will continue hearing the plea on Friday.

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