The Bombay High Court on Friday sought Maharashtra government’s response on the Centre’s writ plea, filed through its deputy salt commissioner, challenging a November 2018 order of the revenue minister declaring that while the state was the owner of various salt pans in Mumbai, some were privately owned.
The state government had transferred 102 acre in Kanjurmarg, a salt pan, to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for the Metro car shed project.
While announcing the scrapping of the Metro car shed project at Aarey Colony in Goregaon last month, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had said that the project would be shifted to a government-owned land in Kanjurmarg.
The state, through the Mumbai suburban collector, had passed an order on the transfer of the land on October 1 and handed over its possession to the MMRDA on October 6.
However, the Union government, through the deputy salt commissioner, has claimed ownership of the Kanjurmarg land and sought to stop construction on it pending hearing of the case. Besides the Kanjurmarg salt pan, the Centre has laid its claim on other salt pans as well, maintaining that the same belonged to the Salt Commissionerate.
The petition being heard by division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni said that the Salt Commissioner, on October 12, had written to the Maharashtra revenue department objecting to the land transfer order. However, Mumbai suburban collector rejected the objections on October 15. Alleging that the November 1, 2018 order of the state revenue minister – declaring that the state was the owner of various salt pans in Mumbai – was “hit by the vice of non-application of mind and is ex-facie erroneous, illegal”, the plea sought that the same be set aside. Pending the hearing, the Centre also sought interim stay on the operation of the orders passed by the revenue minister and the collector.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, representing the Union government, told the HC that the various lands in question were always with the Centre, as they were salt pans, and that the same has also been recognised by the MMRDA and Maharashtra government.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing the Maharashtra government, said that issues involved in the petition regarding claims over the salt pan lands, date back to the early 1900s or even before that and the state was required to be given two weeks to respond to the same.
However, ASG Singh sought an early hearing, which the HC accepted and posted further hearing for December 4.
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