The Uncertainty over the construction of a car shed for the Line 3 of the Mumbai Metro continues. After the Uddhav Thackeray gov had scrapped the proposed car shed ad Aarey Milk Colony immediately after coming to power, the state govt allotted a plot at Kanjurmarg for the project last month. However, it has again hit a roadblock as the union govt asked the state govt to stop work at the site as the land was transferred to MMRDA illegally.
Maharashtra govt had transferred 102 acres of land at Kanjurmarg to the MMRDA, and the state govt is claiming that it owns the land hence it has the right to transfer the land for the metro car shed. But according to centre, that is not correct, as the land is actually owned by Salt Commissioner, which reports to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) of the union govt. Moreover, the land was transferred violating norms, as while the MMRDA had applied to DPIIT for allotment of the land, the state govt transferred it without waiting for a response by DPIIT.
There is a long standing dispute over the ownership of salt lands in Mumbai between state govt and the Salt Commissionerate. Plots used for salt cultivation in Mumbai were earmarked as salt pan lands after a settlement survey that was conducted before 1930. As per records available with the Union govt, there was 5,378 acre of salt pan in Mumbai which was allotted to various salt works under leases and licences in 13 revenue villages.
The dispute started in 1982, when the then additional Mumbai suburban collector had ruled that 29 such plots, totally 1,336 acre, vested in the state govt as the salt cultivation had ended on those plots. Since then, both sides are engaged in a legal dispute over ownership of those salt pans. In 2018, the then revenue minister Chandrakant Patil in the BJP govt had ruled in favour of the state govt vesting 2,978-acre of defunct salt pans in the state government. According to the centre, this was against the Maharashtra govt’s order in 1996 which had said that the salt pan land belongs to the Salt Commissioner.
A writ petition has been filed against the order issued by Patil on 22nd September this year, and the plea is pending in court. The Kanjurmarg plot is also included in the petition. Therefore, the ownership of the salt pans in Mumbai is under dispute, and the state govt can’t claim ownership on it till the legal dispute remains.
The Kanjurmarg plot acquired by the govt of India during the period 1906-1920, and it was given on lease for 99 years for manufacturing of salt. The lease expired in 2016, and it was not renewed after that. The former lease holder M/s Arthur Salt Works had filed a suit in the court, and obtained an order from the court which says that possession of the land remains with them. As the lease has expired on 24/10/2016, the union govt filed petition with the City Civil Court to dismiss the suit filed by the former Lessee and seeking to take possession of the land. Hearing in this petition has begun, but it is not over yet.
Therefore, there are multiple disputes over the plot which has been allotted for the construction of Metro car shed. First, there is a litigation between the company that had the lease for the plot for salt cultivation and the union govt. Second, there is a litigation between the state and central govts over all the salt pan land in Mumbai, including the said plot.
In the meanwhile, the MMRDA had filed a plea seeking to join the suit as an intervener, and sought around 40 Hectares of land on temporary basis for 5 years to be used as casting yard for construction of metro lines. This plea was dismissed by the court in March 2019.
The MMRDA had also applied to DPIIT for transfer of 43.76 Hectare of land at Kanjurmarg for construction of Metro Car Shed under Metro Line 6 project. Following this request, the DPIIT had directed Salt Commissioner in July 2020 to conduct a joint survey of the land with the MMRDA. However, the state govt went ahead and allotted the land to MMRDA, while the survey report is yet to be submitted with the DPIIT. The state govt had also opposed the joint survey, saying the land belongs to them.
Apart from the writ petition filed by the union govt against the state govt ordering that the salt pans belong to it, several other actions have been taken by the Salt Commission to claim the land. A Complaint has been filed at Kanjur Marg Police station against the construction activities on the land. The Commissionerate has also written to the Mumbai Suburban Collector, MMRDA and DMRCL against the same.
Therefore, as per records, the salt pans were acquired by the union govt of India during the period 1906 – 2020, and historically it owned the land. While the state govt has declared that it owns the land after the end of salt cultivation in several plots, the same has been contested by the union govt and the matter is in court now. Moreover, there is an additional dispute over the said plot between the former Lessee and the central govt.
In view of this, the union govt is of the opinion that the decision of the state govt to transfer the land to MMRDA was taken without taking necessary permission from the central govt, and without following proper procedure. The union govt has also said that the state govt decision has caused a severe loss to the DPIIT.