Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While emphasizing the aspect of encroachment of public land, the Division Bench of Dipankar Datta, CJ and G.S. Kulkarni, J., observed that,

“It is not new that valuable Government land on account of the negligent approach of the officers in charge by not protecting such lands from encroachment have stood extinguished from the Government’s holding, causing a serious cascading effect.”

Aggrieved by the public notice issued by respondent 1 – the Slum Rehabilitation Authority, petitioners were to be rehabilitated being affected by Pune Metro Rail Project.

Petitioners contended that under the State’s policy, being slum dwellers, they have a status of being protected occupiers, who would be required to be rehabilitated by allotment of a free of cost permanent alternate accommodation in case land below the slum is sought to be utilized for public purpose.

Further, the petitioners contend that the slum dwellers society had opposed the passing of the Pune Metro through the slum land, so did the developers. They also suggested realignment of the metro track, however, sans success.

High Court noted that the petitioners who had initially encroached on the Government land and remained on the same for some time to fall within the beneficial policy of the State Government of being protected slum dwellers, cannot elevate their protection to such an extent that such slum dwellers have to be rehabilitated either on the same land, if any remaining after the project work is completed within the vicinity.

Bench opined that any encroachment on public land at the threshold ought not to be tolerated and prompt action is required to be taken to remove such encroachment, more particularly when those who are custodians of the public land are well aware that encroachments for long periods will clothe the encroachers with rights to seek rehabilitation at public costs under the prevalent Government policies.

Violation of Public Trust Doctrine

Government on account of negligent approach by not protecting public lands from encroachment is later required to acquire the same from private holdings, causing an unwarranted burden on the public exchequer and a sheer waste of taxpayers money.

Despite the might machinery, Government doesn’t protect its valuable land resulting into the grossest violation of public trust doctrine as a result of patent abuse of powers vested in such Government machinery is not protecting public property.

Accountability

Court added that it wonders as to whether at any point of time an audit in regard to encroached government land in State of Maharashtra was undertaken. As to how many such lands have vanished due to encroachment and whether any steps to preserve the same have been taken – these are certain questions to be answered to “we the people” and accountability fixed for negligence.

Bench hoped that the Government awakens on such issues before it is too late and restores all the encroached Government lands for public benefit.

The above would certainly require a genuine political will and consciousness towards larger public benefit.

Coming to the present matter, High Court expressed that,

Mere right of rehabilitation cannot be recognized to be equivalent to a right of ownership or as if it is some compensation being offered to the slum dwellers for their encroachment and occupation of Government land.

 In the present matter, the petitioners were not denied the benefit of rehabilitation, infact they were called upon by several notices for allotment of premises, but they took an unreasonable adamant stand and refused the benefit.

Opining that the present petition was not filed bonafide, Court stated that the petition appeared to be a patent abuse of process of law.

While imposing costs of Rs 5,000 the petition was dismissed. [Abdul Majid Vakil Ahmad Patvekari v. Slum Rehabilitation Authority, WP No. 3983 of 2021, decided on 31-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. Nikhil Wadikar i/b. Mr. Rajesh Katore for the petitioners.
Mr. Deepak R. More for respondent no. 1.
Mr. B.V. Samant, AGP for the State.
Mr. S.K. Mishra, Senior Advocate a/w. Mr. Pralhad D. Paranjape and Mr. Kaustubh Deogade for respondent nos. 4 and 5.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of S.R. Brahmbhatt and A.P. Thaker, JJ. dismissed a PIL filed by the petitioner.

The applicant filed a PIL in the Court and the following was prayed for:

  • The Court should declare the action of the respondent authorities in proposing the implementation of the slum rehabilitation scheme for the slum-dwellers of Rathod Vas Village as unconstitutional, illegal and without jurisdiction to the extent the same proposes shifting of location that too on payment of amount price under the JNURM BSUP Scheme.
  • Respondents must be directed to propose a slum housing project or allot them houses in the housing project situated in the closest proximity under the slum rehabilitation scheme without mandating any payment from the slum dwellers as prescribed under the Slum Rehabilitation Act and Slum Policies.
  • Respondent must be directed to pay the rent to the slum-dwellers for the inter-magnum period of their relocation from the slums till the completion and allotment of houses.

On these grounds the petitioner wanted the Court to pass an order restraining the respondent authorities from evicting the slum-dwellers.

The contentions of the petitioner were that the respondents did not have the right to uproot and shift the slum dwellers irrespective of they being registered as slum dwellers or not as per the Gujarat Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Re-development) Act, 1973. Secondly, the scheme under which the rehabilitation is offered also requires payment by the beneficiary, which also is not in accordance with the scheme, as while offering rehabilitation there ought not to have been any requirement of payment on the part of the occupant.

The respondent argued that the very petition was ill-conceived and must be dismissed as the petitioner created an undue hurdle in the way of the beneficiary for whom the petition is filed. Secondly, the petitioner had basically pleaded for the encroachment surrounding Vadsar Pond. They spoke about the rights of the beneficiary party to seek rehabilitation at a place of choice with payment of a minimum amount.

The Court took all the arguments into consideration and instructed the petitioner to apply to the Corporation for grant of alternative accommodation in accordance with the law and disposed of the petition.[Bhaliya Bhikhabhai Ramjibhai v. State of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 1491, decided on 25-07-2019]