MUMBAI: The National Green Tribunal slammed the state Housing Board for mechanically adopting a stand taken by a private developer in its affidavit in an environmental clearance dispute over a large redevelopment project in Bandra (east). The Tribunal directed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) to pay Rs 25000 as adjournment costs to a litigant, as a result of its "casual approach''.
In the order passed on Friday, but made available on Monday, a panel of Justice V R Kingaonkar and Ajay Deshpande, expert member, strongly ''deprecated'' Mhada's actions as "reprehensible and intolerable.''
Anil Tharthare, an activist, had appealed against green clearance given to an upcoming project on Mhada land at Gandhi Nagar, near the landmark Kala Nagar area in Bandra. Tharthare's counsel Aditya Pratap said in the hearing that firstly the construction by Resilience Realty, a group company of Rustomjee Developers, had begun in 2011 without any clearance from the Environment Ministry. The clearance given in 2013 does not cover an additional 30 percent increase in construction permitted by Mhada, he said.
Senior counsel Gaurav Joshi, appearing for the developer, challenged Tharthare's plea on two grounds. He questioned its maintainability on grounds of delay, the absence of his locus standi and also said that the clearance was valid. Besides, the building, Rustomjee Oriana, which is over 20 storeys high, is almost complete, the tribunal was told. The Tribunal, based in Pune, had in August subjected creation of third party rights in the project to the outcome of the litigation
Then Mhada which was asked to file its affidavit in reply gave an unaffirmed affidavit saying it aopted the stand of the developers.
On Friday, the tribunal said, "It is most unfortunate that during midst of arguments..Mhada had not filed any affidavit in legal paralysis.'' The affidavit filed later by a Mhada officer "is a simple adoption of an affidavit dated May 27 by the developer... when in fact no such affidavit was ever affirmed.'' Mhada has a huge layout in the area and the dispute pertains to a portion of the land.
"Needless to say Mhada did not apply its mind independently...we need not advice Mhada and its law officer that Mhada is supposed to give legal advice and prepare an affidavit without simply taking some other affidavit in adoption,'' said the NGT directing Mhada to file a proper reply by applying its own mind since it " several other projects in the area on Mhada land are likely to be affected if any adverse decision is taken in the matter.''
The NGT said non-compliance of its order would mean coercive steps against the offices of Mhada and the Urban Development Department would be required to take departmental action against errant officers as casual working has to be weeded out so as to ensure that there is probity in governance.