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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Maharashtra to bypass Centre’s land Act to acquire dilapidated buildings in Mumbai

Law dept questions move, Shiv Sena-led BMC loses control over some areas

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | August 29, 2019 6:06:12 am
Delhi: Building collapses in Sawan Park, 2 killed, search operations continue Invoking the right to safety of those occupying these rundown buildings, the amendments allow the government to suspend a land owner’s right to property and forcibly acquire and redevelop them if the owner does not initiate redevelopment within a given time frame. (Source: Amit Mehra)

THE MAHARASHTRA 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 buildings mandatory, the state Cabinet cleared various modifications to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act (MHAD), 1976 to enable the state-run Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to acquire all such properties where the land holders or the developers are found stalling redevelopment.

Invoking the right to safety of those occupying these rundown buildings, the amendments allow the government to suspend a land owner’s right to property and forcibly acquire and redevelop them if the owner does not initiate redevelopment within a given time frame.

But the 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.

On Wednesday, the Cabinet also sanctioned a move to introduce a state amendment to the Centre’s land Act, exempting the MHAD Act, 1976 from its purview. Incidentally, in June, the Madras High Court had declared “illegal” a similar amendment made by the Tamil Nadu government.

The move to suspend the land owner’s right to property itself is under the scanner with the law department pointing out that the Supreme Court has imposed certain restrictions in this regard. The Property Owners Association has challenged a prevalent provision in the MHAD Act in this context, which is pending before a nine-member bench of the SC, the department has stated.

According to the new provisions, owners of such buildings will get six months to initiate redevelopment once they are tagged as dangerous to live in. The collective of tenants or the housing society will get another six months for such redevelopment, failing which, the MHADA will step in to acquire the building and redevelop it with a builder of its choice.

The move will have a direct impact on 14,207 cessed properties in the island city; most of which are over 70-years-old. Planning to revamp these under the state’s cluster redevelopment policy, the government has also empowered the MHADA to acquire the adjoining non-cess buildings. Besides, the MHADA has been permitted to revoke the no objection certificates it had issued to developers in the past in case of projects stalled over three years.

In another contentious move, the government accorded MHADA the status of a planning authority for all cessed properties in Mumbai. In simple terms, this means that the Shiv Sena-led BMC will now lose control over these prime pockets with the government transferring powers to sanction building and development permissions on these land. The need to approach the civic body won’t be there.

In the past, both the municipality and the urban development department had objected to the move. It will also impact BMC’s revenue collection from the construction sector.

Meanwhile, all builders redeveloping cessed properties will have to compulsorily register themselves with the MHADA. Further, at the time of applying for redevelopment, they will need to open an escrow account depositing an advance rent of 24 months for the affected tenants. Officials said directives will soon be issued in this regard.

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