The Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered that status quo be maintained on an order issued by the Mumbai collector asking the Haji Ali Dargah Trust to pay Rs 1.90 crore from the income generated by allowing mobile towers on its premises. The trust, established a century ago for religious and charitable purposes, obtained the land that it occupies in south Mumbai from the collector on lease.
The city collector on May 4 addressed a letter to the trust asking it to deposit Rs 1.88 crore within 20 days. The demand is based on an April 2005 notification that sought 50 per cent share of income from such lease on leasehold land from societies.
A vacation bench of Justices P D Naik and M S Karnik was hearing a petition filed by Haji Ali trust member Abdul Sattar Merchant, challenging the collector’s order passed last week. The court heard brief arguments in the matter and posted it for June 15.
“Until then status quo shall be maintained,” the court said. In 1920-21, the trust became a lessee of over 4,000 square yards of land, which included two pieces. In 1940 and later in 1951, 111 sq yards and 60 sq yards were additionally leased. These leases placed no restriction on the user from letting out any part of the leased land, said the trust.
In 2009, the trust gave a small portion of the land on leave and licence to four cellular companies. The income generated is used by the trust for the benefit of the community at large, it said. The collector had passed an order on March 21, 2017, directing the trust to share 50 per cent of the income from the cell phone towers.
The trust’s contention is that the 2005 notification applies to housing and other private societies but not to any religious or charitable trust that is not a profit-making entity.