Aware since 1990 of the violations carried out on its leased Worli plot, the Campa Cola compound, the BMC dithered over a proposal to cancel the lease with Pure Drinks Pvt. Ltd, allowing the issue to escalate to the current stand-off.
Correspondence and proposals relayed between various BMC offices and departments, accessed by Newsline, show contradictory stands the civic body and its commissioners took over the years on the same issue.
On August 21, 1990, the then municipal commissioner K Padmanabhiah first appealed to the improvements’ committee to cancel the lease given to Pure Drinks since January 17, 1962, for an annual rent of Re 1. The lease conditions stated that the land should be developed for offices, film studios, godowns, workshops, factories and residential quarters and convenience stores for workers of these.
However, since 1980, construction of residential high-rises (now known as the Campa Cola Compound buildings) was undertaken and flats here were sold to “outsiders” instead of factory workers.
Padmanabhiah observed that Pure Drinks had neither obtained a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the civic estates department nor an occupation certificate (OC) for the buildings. “Leaseholders did not take any action in spite of being verbally informed, and then officially told not to violate these conditions. Hence, there is no other alternative except to enter the premises and retake control of it,” Padmanabhiah wrote.
A showcause was then issued to Pure Drinks. After receiving their response (see inset), the committee asked the civic chief to conduct a probe and submit a report. In June 1992, the then civic chief, Sharad Kale, submitted a report and observed that legally, the lease agreement did not allow them to re-enter the property. Kale recommended regularising parts of the illegal construction (wherever possible) and demolishing the rest. “After taking additional rent and penalty, whatever construction can be regularised should be regularised and what cannot, the leaseholder should demolish,” he wrote in his report.
In a meeting on August 11, 1992, the improvement committee concurred with Kale and decided to continue the lease. In October 1992, however, corporator Sohan Singh Kohli wrote to the municipal secretary, “I was surprised to know that the administration has recommended no action. It is not appropriate to show leniency in this case. We should demolish the illegal structures.”
This had no effect on the corporation and, on December 24, 1992, the civic general body passed a resolution allowing Pure Drinks to retain the lease.
In June 1995, the improvements committee once again sought to reconsider its earlier decision and bring back Padmanabhiah’s proposal of 1990. In a subsequent back-and-forth between the administration and the committee, further violations were brought to light.
In December 2009, during the tenure of commissioner S S Kshatriya, the improvements committee undertook a site visit to the compound during which BJP corporator Manoj Kotak noticed a board of “Krishna Developers” there. When asked if the developer had been given third-party rights on the plot, the civic administration denied this and said it was a breach of terms.
Thereafter, legal opinion was sought, and in March 2011, the committee recorded (put on hold) the 1990 proposal to cancel the lease until the on-going Supreme Court case with the residents of the illegal flats in the Campa Cola compound came to a close.
Last year, after the SC verdict asking the residents to move out of the illegal flats and ordering the BMC to demolish them, the civic body once again issued showcause notices to Pure Drinks and Krishna Developers. “The proposal to cancel the lease is now waiting to be brought before the improvements committee for final decision.