The Uddhav Thackeray government on Wednesday decided to bypass the Centre’s land acquisition Act for acquiring dilapidated buildings in the island city of Mumbai.
Making time-bound redevelopment of dilapidated tenanted and non-tenanted building mandatory, the state Cabinet approved modification to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act, 1976, enabling state-run Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to forcibly acquire properties in cases where the landholders or developers are found to have stalled redevelopments. Invoking the right to safety of those occupying these rundown buildings, the amendments allow the government to suspend a landowner’s right to property and forcibly acquire and redevelop them if the owner does not initiate redevelopment within a given time frame.
The state law department has reportedly objected to the compensation being offered to the land losers. While the state housing department has proposed a compensation of up to 25 per cent of the land’s ready reckoner values or 15 per cent of built-up space, the former has argued that it must be strictly in accordance with the Centre’s Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013, which entitles the land loser to receive 200 per cent of the plot’s market value as compensation. A similar attempt by the previous Devendra Fadnavis-led regime last year was blocked after the Property Owners Association (POA), a forum representing 28,000 landowners in Mumbai, raised legal objections against it.
The state’s latest move comes despite an ongoing protracted legal battle in the Supreme Court, which is currently being heard by a nine-member bench. In 1986, then state government had similarly amended the MHAD Act to introduce a new provision (Section 103B), allowing the Mumbai Building Repair and Reconstruction Board (MBRRB) of MHADA to acquire cessed properties with the consent of 70 per cent of the tenants for reconstruction purposes.
Challenging the move, the POA had first approached the Bombay High Court, and the later the SC, after losing the challenge in the lower court. In the SC, the matter was first referred to a three-member bench, but has since been referred to larger benches. The POA has been arguing the landowner’s right to property is a fundamental right and cannot be suspended.
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