The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra government to get rid of the norm of obtaining prior consent from slum dwellers for projects involving integrated development of slums into townships.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sankelacha recently asked the government to make special provisions allowing the government to appoint a developer without such consent for such redevelopment projects. Existing slum redevelopment norms require the developer to obtain consent from 70 per cent slum dwellers before construction permission is granted to such projects.
The court,however,observed that the norm was only helping slumlords and was in no way beneficial to individual slum dwellers. In the last 17 years,the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) has allotted 1,524 slum redevelopment projects,but only 197 of these (less than 13 per cent) have been completed so far. It has been brought out that ascertaining eligibility and obtaining consent of slum dwellers is a Herculean task. If a developer is required to ascertain the eligibility of slum dwellers for rehabilitation and obtain their consent for development,considerable time,energy and money is consumed in the process, the court observed,while ruling on a petition concerning one such redevelopment project in Mumbai.
Advocate General Darius Khambatta,who represented the government,informed the court that a state-appointed panel,which is reviewing development control regulations.
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The Maharashtra housing department has sought modifications in development control regulations to implement a policy decision that recognises a slum dwellers right to transfer a slum structure. CM Prithviraj Chavan had announced the initiative in the run-up to the civic polls,but a final notification is yet to be issued.
While existing regulations allow only the original inhabitant of a pre-1995 (Jan 1) slum structure to be rehabilitated,the proposed modification will make new occupants eligible for rehabilitation upon payment of a transfer fee including those concerning slum redevelopment projects,would consider the courts suggestions.
The court also asked the government to set up a single window clearance for permissions required for such projects. It observed that the developers and slum societies have to approach 23 different regulatory authorities at present. Khambatta informed the court that the panel would consider this suggestion too.
The observations are a part of a 55-page judgment pertaining to the redevelopment projects,which was delivered on September 24 and posted on the courts website recently. The project in question involves rehabilitation of about 7,000 slum dwellers and is spread over 1.89 lakh sq m land in Borla,which is located in the eastern suburb of Chembur.
The project,undertaken by Nilesh Modi-promoted Sterling Building Pvt. Ltd,was given the go-ahead by former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on November 11,2010,effectively his last day in office. After taking over the reins,incumbent Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan revoked the permission.
The approval was granted under the controversial section 3K (1) of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement,Clearance,and Redevelopment) Act,1971,which grants discretionary powers to the government and the SRA on matters including formulation of slum redevelopment schemes. The Indian Express had reported on November 1 that the Court quashed the revocation order,and reinstated the project.