Written by Sanjana Bhalerao
After the loss of a four-acre plot in Jogeshwari, reserved for open spaces, recreational activities and playground, to a private player, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) now wants autonomy in land acquisition cases. In a recent letter to the state Urban Development Department, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta has proposed to de-link the acquisition process under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act from the provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The acquisition under the MRTP Act should be independently carried out by evolving rules, as in the case of the Slum Act, MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority) and MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) Act, read the letter.
One of the key reasons that the BMC lost the Jogeshwari plot is because the High Court had ruled that the civic body had not declared its intention for acquiring the land.
The civic chief has proposed that the initial steps taken by the civic body (in case of the Jogeshwari plot) as per the MRTP Act Section 126 (1) be treated as an intention of the planning authority to procure the plot. The move comes after the Gyankprakash Kamalshankar Shukla v/s MCGM case in which the civic body lost the 14,000 sqm prime plot worth Rs 500 crore. In November 2017, the High Court had held that the plot’s reservation for a recreational ground and a hospital had lapsed and the petitioner, Shukla, who claimed to be its owner, was free to develop the property.
The High Court had held that the BMC had not taken any steps to acquire the land within 12 months of a purchase notice being issued by the owner under the law. The BMC filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court but lost the case. The reservation on the plot was mentioned in the city’s development plan of 1992.
Currently, the BMC submits an application to the state government for acquisition of land under the reservation. Following the receipt, the government publishes notification for the acquisition of land under the Land Acquisition Act. The letter also mentions that the BMC has no control over declaration issued and time taken by the Collector/Acquisition officer. The notification must be published within 12 months.
In addition to the autonomy over land acquisition, the civic body has also sought to increase the time within which it can acquire land. Currently, the civic body gets 10 years to acquire a plot after the development plan is published. The BMC has now sought that the acquisition be allowed within 10 years or the period for which the development plan is sanctioned. The plan is sanctioned for 20 years. In case of the Jogeshwari plot, the BMC had sent purchase notice only after the 10 year period, in 2015.