Barely hours before the new local season kicked off under lights at the Mahindra Stadium,the city civil court gave the hockey fraternity a reason to cheer after it set aside the eviction order passed by the state government last year.
The news will come as a huge relief to the Mumbai Hockey Association Limited (MHAL),who were ordered to vacate the premise with immediate effect by the government last year for ‘violating’ the lease terms. However,while dismissing the government’s decision,the court came down heavily on the state government,saying the order was passed ‘arbitrarily’ and without ‘application of mind.’ The decision means that MHAL can continue using the ground and conduct activities as usual.
In his order,Judge SD Tulankar also came down heavily on the competent authority,accusing them of passing the order without ‘properly appreciating’ the evidence on record. It also described the conclusions drawn by the competent authority as ‘erroneous’ and hence it needed to be set aside.
The judge observed that the state government took the decision without hearing the appellants,thus bypassing the natural course of justice. It was alleged that many hockey players were denied membership,the premises were being used for commercial purposes in violation of the terms of lease and therefore,the govt decided to cancel the previous order for extension of lease for a period of 15 years and ordered that possession of the premises be immediately taken from the appellants. In the view of said order which was passed without hearing of the appellants, Tulankar noted. It was submitted that the order dated 17-19-2012 passed by the govt was passed in violation of principles of natural justice and no personal hearing was granted to the appellants, he added.
Tulankar further observed that by asking MHAL to vacate the premises,the government was violating its own guidelines. The order under challenge is clearly without application of mind. In my opinion,the action of cancellation of lease by the state government without giving sound reasons appears to be arbitrary and high handed…at this juncture,I would like to state that the central government has issued guidelines about eviction in 2002…and these guidelines reiterated the position that persons in continuous possession and occupation should not be evicted, the judge noted.
He also said the government acted after being instigated by players who were aggrieved with the MHAL. The government suddenly cancelled the lease at the behest of some players who are allegedly aggrieved and the only ground for eviction of premises is that lease was cancelled. the competent authority therefore failed to examine this aspect of the matter as to whether eviction was based on fair and impartial action, Tulankar said in his judgment.
MHAL secretary Ram Singh Rathor hailed the court’s judgment,saying it would help them focus on hockey now. We welcome the court’s verdict. We have maintained since the beginning that we are here for the betterment of hockey. Now,we will be able to focus on hockey-related activities instead of all other distractions, Rathor said.