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‘Transfer of Kanjurmarg land for metro car shed borders on fraud’: Bombay High Court slams Maharashtra govt for ignoring court orders

"Collector’s action of passing the impugned order in the manner he did does border on committing a ‘fraud on power", the court said

In a scathing comment against the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court has said that the order transferring land at Kanjurmarg to the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) for building its metro car shed bordered on fraud. The court made the comments because a title suit over the land is pending before it, therefore the land can’t be used or transferred to anyone before that case is settled.

The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni made the comments while staying the construction of the car shed for line 3 of Mumbai metro. The bench was ‘aghast’ to note that the Collector issued the order handing over the land to MMRDA without bothering to wait for the outcome of the civil application pending before the High Court.

“The Collector on his own and without waiting for the outcome of such application has passed the impugned order and delivered possession to the MMRDA”, the order said. Taking a strong objection to the decision taken by the administration to hand over the land, the bench said, “We do not wish to be harsh at this stage because all the materials are yet to be placed before us, but cannot desist from observing that the Collector’s action of passing the impugned order in the manner he did does border on committing a ‘fraud on power’.”

The court made these comments referring to a Civil Application filed in 2016 by the Maharashtra government over the same land. The state govt had, at that time, sought the court’s permission to use the land for car shed for Metro line no 3, and that application was still pending before the court.

Despite seeking court’s permission for use of the land, the state govt went ahead and ordered the transfer of the land, without waiting for the verdict of the court in the matter. “We are aghast to note that while Civil Application No.84 of 2016 has been pending, the Collector on his own and without waiting for the outcome of such application has passed the impugned order and delivered possession to the MMRDA,” the court said.

Apart from that, the collector also ignored another case filed in 2005 by a private company, which was granted lease of 99 years for salt mining on the plot in 1922. The former lease holder M/s Arthur Salt Works had filed a suit in the court challenging the decision of the government to not renew the lease after its expiry in 2016. Following this petition, the Bombay High Court had granted interim relief to the petitioner, and had transferred the case to Civil Court. That case is also still pending with the court.

The court noted that the change in the state govt’s decision was due to the change in the govt. “It seems to be clear that there has been a change in policy with change in the ruling dispensation in the State”, the judgement said. The court further said that the decision-making process leading to the order to hand over the land does not pass the test of judicial scrutiny on this count.

The court also slammed MMRDA for not disclosing the fact that it was aware of the 2005 case on the plot.

After the Maharashtra govt had announced that the car shed will come up at Kanjurmarg, after cancelling the project at Aarey Colony, the central govt had moved court claiming ownership of the land. At the same time, Thee private company Arthur Salt Works had also challenged the decision in the court.

Considering that multiple cases were pending over the ownership of the land, both before allotment of the land to MMRDA and after that, the High Court had ordered a stay on the order of the Collector.

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