Occupants of over 400 flats in four complexes in Panvel, Navi Mumbai, are in danger of losing their homes after the Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the societies/builders to maintain status quo.
The division bench of Justices A S Oka and A S Gadkari, while hearing a public interest litigation against the alleged illegal constructions in Panvel, directed that construction - wherever it was going on - should be stopped.
The affected societies that have been constructed on the plot, near the State Transport bus stand, are Ambika Nagar CHS, Aspire CHS, Pushpadham CHS and Neelkanth Landmark. Of these, Neelkanth is a commercial complex and the construction is still on, while people have already taken possession of their houses in the other three societies. The court also directed that if the flats which are occupied or unsold are being sold, the purchaser should be specifically informed about the on-going litigation, and also told that the fate of the said flat will depend on the final outcome of the PIL.
"A tragedy like Campa Cola should not happen again and the flat purchasers should not claim equity saying we are innocent purchasers," the court observed.
The court also noted that there was prima facie illegality committed in granting permission to develop the said plots, where four societies comprising various buildings stand. Panvel resident Yashwant Bhagat, represented by advocate Rajendra Pai, had filed the PIL in 2009 after he noticed construction on the plots. On inquiry and with help of the Right to Information Act, he found that the land parcels belonged to the city planning authority CIDCO.
The land on which these societies stand, constructed/under-construction on four different plots measuring a total of 18,500 sq mt, were originally acquired from local residents by the state government after it envisaged the scheme to develop a satellite city (Navi Mumbai). This particular area then fell under the limits of the Panvel Municipal Council (PMC).
The CIDCO, represented by advocate Ashutosh Kulkarni, has been supporting the PIL and seeking that the land be returned to the body. Certain portions of the land are earmarked for railways for the Panvel-Diva railway line, while certain other is for Panvel-Matheran road and the balance for CIDCO.
The PIL alleged that one Jitendra Timbadia got the land converted for non-agricultural use from the Collector, entered into agreements with four different builders/developers and the PMC granted development permissions, despite the fact that PMC had no such powers since the land had already been acquired by the state.
During various hearings, the HC had directed Konkan's divisional commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the episode. The divisional commissioner, in an affidavit filed in March this year, along with the report, in a way ratified the contentions raised in the PIL.
However, according to Timbadia, not only the development permissions but occupation certificate too has been obtained for the residential buildings, and hence there is no illegality on his part.
The CIDCO too filed an affidavit saying that PMC did not have powers to grant development permission since it (CIDCO) was the planning authority. The CIDCO informed the court that the authority had been issuing stop work notices to the builders since February 2009 itself, but they carried on in blatant violation, ignoring its notices. According to CIDCO, it had informed other concerned authorities such as the PMC about the same, but it paid attention only after the HC came into picture. The case will now be heard in January, after court's Christmas vacation.