MUMBAI: Paying a compensation of Rs 4 per square metre for two sprawling plots in the centre of Mumbai was unreal, the Bombay high court told the Maharashtra government, and ordered a much bigger payout.
The state had acquired around 9,140 square metres of land in Wadala for redevelopment and declared a compensation of Rs 34,992 (Rs 3.8/sq m) for the Nenshi Monji family trust that owned it. The HC has now asked the builder redeveloping the plots to pay Rs 2.17crore, or Rs 2,374 a sq m, to the family.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Burgess Colabawalla, however, refused to grant any relief to the trust—now comprising the grandsons of the original owner—that had challenged the government's decision to designate the plots as slum land and acquire it for redevelopment.
"On the face of it, compensation at the rate of less than Rs 4 per square metre in the city of Mumbai appears to be illusory," said the judges. "Having regard to the fact that the petitioners have lost about 9,140 square metres of land, we are of the view that the petitioners deserve to get compensation and not mere illusory amount for compulsory acquisition of their lands."
The bench said it would have ordinarily set aside the compensation and allowed the trust to file an appeal before the government to enhance the amount. But considering the fact that over 400 families of slumdwellers were waiting for rehabilitation, it asked the developers whether they were ready to pay a compensation of Rs 2.17 crore to the family. The amount was calculated as 25% of the 2005 ready reckoner rate for the land—the premium the society of slumdwellers would have had to pay if the land was owned by the government. The developers agreed.
On a request by the trust for a stay on the order, the HC asked the developer not to start construction of the slum rehabilitation building or the free sale building on the land for eight weeks.
The two parcels of land under dispute in Wadala are spread over 9,140 sq m and occupied by 412 families of slumdwellers. In 1977 and 1994 the state declared the plots as slum land under the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance & Redevelopment) Act. In 2006, the state acquired the land and announced a compensation for the owners.
The family approached the HC against the acquisition in 2008. The developers claimed that they had spent over Rs 50 crore on the project, including on rent for 239 of the 412 families who had vacated their houses and were provided temporary accommodation.
Refusing relief to the petitioners, the HC said they had "not shown due diligence for protection of their property rights". The family had been unable to explain the delay in approaching the court, had not got the property records updated and 70% of the slum-dwellers had said they support the present builder, it added. "We find that granting any relief to the petitioner would, in fact, do grave injustice to the slumdwellers who are waiting for the last nine years (for homes) after acquisition of the property in question."