The Bombay High Court has come down heavily on the Mumbai suburban district collector over his decision to transfer 102-acre Kanjurmarg salt pan land for the Metro car shed project, observing that the order “borders on committing fraud on power”, was “perverse” and showed “serious flaw” in the decision-making process.
“It seems to be clear that there has been a change in policy with change in the ruling dispensation in the state. While changes can be effected keeping in mind what the larger public interest warrants, extraneous considerations ought not to outweigh all other considerations of propriety, legality and fairness in administrative action,” Chief Justice Dipankar Datta said in the 24-page order passed on Wednesday and made available on Thursday.
The bench added, “We are conscious of the element of public interest involved in setting up of the Metro car shed on the subject land; at the same time, we cannot remain oblivious if a person is divested of its/his right in property without the authority of law.”
Pulling up the collector, the HC said, “We do not wish to be harsh at this stage because all the materials are yet to be placed before us, but cannot desist from observing that the collector’s action of passing the impugned order in the manner he did does border on committing a fraud on power.”
On October 11, while scrapping the car shed project at Aarey Milk Colony, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had said that it would now instead come up on the salt pan land at Kanjurmarg. The ruling Shiv Sena had touted the move as a major achievement, claiming that it had saved the vital green space in Aarey for Mumbai and its future generations.
Subsequently, the Mumbai suburban district collector had ordered the transfer of the Kanjurmarg salt pan land on October 1 to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). However, the Union government as well as private petitioners had challenged the move.
On Wednesday, the HC stayed the move after it prima facie observed that the operation of the collector’s order cannot be allowed to continue, as there were multiple claims over the land and all the parties needed to be heard and claims settled before the car shed work could commence.
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