The Bombay High Court has observed that the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) cannot hold on to a private plot of land without officially acquiring it within the period stipulated under the Land Acquisition Act.
A bench of Justices Riyaz Chagla and Vasanti Naik observed this recently while hearing a petition filed by city resident Hasan Ali Jetha.
As per Jetha's plea, he owns plots of land in Mazgaon area of the city.
In 1964, the Maharashtra government decided to use one of his plots for developing an open public space. While the plan was notified in the corresponding development plan (DP) for the year, in 1986 the state government changed its mind and decided against acquiring the land.
However, the state government failed to follow the procedure of issuing the mandatory notification to show that the plot had been deleted from the list of reserved plots.
Thus, much confusion occurred and in the next DP notified in 1991, the land continued to be shown as reserved for the public space that was to be developed by the BMC.
Jetha approached the BMC and the state seeking his land be shown as de-reserved and he be allowed to develop it for his use.
However, the state authorities did not offer help and he finally approached the high court.
In 2007, another bench of the high court had held that the government's notification seeking acquisition of Jetha's land had lapsed and thus, his rights over the said plot of land must be restored.
However, even the draft development plan for 2013-14 continued showing Jetha's plot as reserved for the public space project, the BMC rejected his request for permission to develop the land for his own use.
He then approached the Bombay HC again arguing that the authorities were not justified in including his land in the draft DP and that the state's failure to issue the notification to delete his plot from the list of reserved plots was "bad in law".
However, in a hearing held earlier this month, the counsel for BMC told the HC that in 2003, it had deposited with the state government the amount that was liable to be paid to Jetha towards acquisition of the said land.
"The state government therefore, should have taken some steps to ensure that the land of the petitioner was acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894," the BMC said.
The bench, however, held earlier this month that the state and the BMC were bound to execute the 2007 order of HC to de-reserve Jetha's plot.
"In the circumstances of the case, the petitioner is entitled to the relief claimed," it said.
The court had allowed his petition in 2007, and had declared that there was a deemed lapse of reservation in respect of the land of the petitioner since no steps were taken by the authorities for the acquisition of the land within the time stipulated, the bench said.
It also observed that it was necessary for the state government to issue a formal notification within a time frame (to de-reserve it).
The bench also directed the BMC to expeditiously decide upon Jetha's application seeking permission to develop the said land on his own.
The court, however, added that if the state and the BMC were still interested in acquiring the said plot of land, they were free to initiate fresh action in accordance with the Land acquisition Act.
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