property in
Please enter place e.g. Delhi, Mumbai etc

Published on 1/9/2018 1:00:43 PM
Santacruz slum sprawl worth thousands of crores, says SC
While directing the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to invite bids from builders to help 800 slum-dwellers in Santacruz, the Supreme Court on January 4 observed how over 800 slum-dwellers resided in "sordid conditions" despite having had entered into an agreement with Susme Builders more than three decades ago.

Susme Builders had in SC challenged a 2014 ruling of the Bombay high court which had upheld an SRA order removing it as developers of the project on grounds of unjustified delay in completion and lack of 70% consent from slum-dwellers. The SRA had in 2012, while cancelling Susme, allowed another builder JG Developers signed up by the slum-dwellers to complete the project.

The slum-dwellers society's managing committee later cancelled JG Developers too and re-signed Susme Builders in September 2014. The SC, which had in March 2015 appointed it former Judge B N Srikrishna to assess which of them had 70% support of slum-dwellers to merit their continuation, held that neither did.

The sprawling slum land in Kole Kalyan village of Santacruz would be worth "thousands of crores", estimated the SC. The original owner of the private land was Ardeshir Cursetji Pestonji Wadia Trust. While litigating to have the slum-dwellers evicted, the trust, in 1985, transferred the land to Om Namo Sujlam Suflam CHS set up by slum-dwellers, following a consent order. "The peculiar facts of the case", said the SC, makes these slum-dwellers "virtually the owners of the land as members of the owner society".

They barely benefited from the agreement with the two builders, said the SC. As "encroachers" they were legally entitled to free 269 sq ft flats, but as "land owners", the SC said, "we see no reason why they should also not be compensated for price of land", with "cash or extra floor space", as any other land owner would have been.

The society had appointed Susme to redevelop the land in 1985 and was promised new 180 sq ft carpet area homes. But no development took place for six years. In the meantime, laws changed allowing free flats for eligible slum-dwellers under a state scheme and later slightly larger flats.

The case had a chequered history even before Susme had challenged its ouster. There were PIL and petitions by the builder and society over various issues, including green norms. The state finally said only parts of land were under CRZ-II. The state had also appointed former housing minister Chandrashekhar Prabhu to assess complaints over rehabilitation. After a new builder was brought by slum-dwellers, fresh rounds of litigation had sprung in the HC.

In June 2014, when the HC bench of Justices M S Sonak and S J Vazifdar upheld the SRA order against Susme Builders, it had observed how "a project under the Slum Act, undoubtedly has public interest involved in its efficient and expeditious completion... Apart from two out of the 15 proposed buildings and some vestiges of a transit camp, there is no other development at the site".

The two seven-storey buildings, given occupancy certificate in 1998, rehabilitated only 128 families in the last 30 years. Susme Builders, represented by legal luminary Fali Nariman, argued that the SRA and HC orders were incorrect, and it be allowed to continue as developer.

But the SC held that "Susme was itself guilty of delaying construction for no reason at all...and was treating the slum dwellers only as a means of making money". And about, JG Developers, represented by former additional solicitor general Gopal Subramanian, the SC had no kind words either.

"The conduct of JG Developers is not above gave false promises... failed to get support of even 30% slum-dwellers" thus is not entitled to any relief.