The Maharashtra government Thursday ordered takeover of the plot on which the World Trade Centre (WTC) is located in south Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade.
In the order issued by Mumbai Collector Ashwini Joshi, the WTC management has been accused of several breaches, including unauthorised construction, illegally letting out open spaces for restaurant activity and other commercial uses, non-payment of the state’s due share in income, and opening up branches without the government’s approval.
The landmark property, formerly known as the M Visvesaraya Industrial Research and Development Centre (MVIRDC), stands on 5.17 lakh square feet government land, which was first leased to it on October 16, 1970 on a concessional rent for trade promotion. Official records show the government had originally allotted about 7.65 lakh square feet land to the MVIRDC, but some of it was resumed in 1979.
Former Union minister Kamal Morarka is the president of the centre while businessman Vijay Kalantri is the vice-president.
The Maharashtra government had launched a probe into the alleged irregularities in the centre’s functioning after the MVIRDC Lessees’ Association approached Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis with a complaint against the management.
On July 19, 2016, Principal Secretary (Revenue) Manukumar Srivastava instructed Joshi to conduct an inquiry. The collector submitted her report to the government on September 3, listing the alleged irregularities, and contended that legal action be initiated against the centre.
Further ruling that the management had committed “serious” breaches of the terms and conditions of lease, Joshi’s office issued a show-cause notice to the centre on September 19. While the MVIRDC replied to it within 10 days, Joshi’s office termed the response as “non-satisfactory”. The pattern was repeated after the second notice was issued on October 14. Another hearing was conducted on November 22, allowing the management “a final opportunity” to defend its stance.
The order issued on Thursday alleged that the centre hadn’t paid the government its due share in the revenue as required. The government orders contend that the MVIRDC must either share 50 per cent of its income, after deducting expenses, with the government each year, or pay a minimum of Rs 10 lakh annually. It has further accused the MVIRDC of entering into 140 sub-lease agreements, in violation of lease norms, without prior permission from the government.
The government has also accused the MVIRDC of setting up several unauthorised commercial galas inside the property, which it claims have been let out too. Questions have also been raised over the validity of a eating house or a canteen being run from a floor in one of the buildings on the property. The MVIRC, on the other hand, has argued in its written submission that it had necessary permissions from the government architect and the Mumbai municipality for these constructions.
Joshi’s order also claims that the common lobby inside one of the buildings had been let out for commercial
purposes. It further claims that an “unauthorised” restaurant had been constructed on a space meant to be left “open-to-sky” in the approved building plan. It has further claimed that on some of the floors spaces marked for “washrooms” and “AC plants” had been let out.
It has also blamed the centre for keeping the government in the dark about a court case between it and a developer, who had been allotted 1.5 lakh square feet space in 1990 for a “convention complex and luxury hotel” inside the premises. Observing that the government’s prior approval was mandatory for all capital investments, Joshi has accused the MVIRDC of opening up branches in Bhubaneswar, Jaipur and Goa, without the state government’s permission. Construction of mobile towers on the building terraces has also been observed as a violation.
The state has now ordered deletion of MVIRDC’s name as the lease holder from the property’s records.