The Bombay High Court recently allowed a petition filed by a public charitable trust called FE Dinshaw Trust and held that acquisition of land measuring almost 41 acres or 1,65,602 square metres had lapsed as the state government failed to complete acquisition in nearly three decades.
A bench of Justice AS Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla directed the state government to publish and notify the lapsing of the said acquisition in the official gazette.
The land in question is located at Dindoshi, Village Malad (East) and is a part of a larger property owned by the trust which measures 23,77,451 sq metres (587 acres).
The larger property along with the land in question was reserved for extension of the Aarey Milk Colony and for setting up centralized cattle stables as per sanctioned development plan of 1967. The BMC passed a resolution in 1973 to initiate proceedings to acquire the larger property under Sections 126 and 127 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act. Advance possession of much of the larger property was taken in 1974.
After the enactment of the Maharashtra Private Forests (Acquisition) Act, the larger property came to be vested with the state government and acquisition proceedings were rendered unnecessary but the petitioner trust challenged the validity of the Forests Act before the court and it was unanimously agreed upon that the larger property will not come under the Forests Act.
Thus, BMC returned the possession of the larger property and kept the possession of only 40 acres.
In 1984, a revised development plan was published wherein the said 40 acres of land was reserved for the purpose of ‘housing the dis-housed’. In a meeting between the petitioner trust and BMC in 1985, it was decided that the said land would be acquired within a month. However, no steps for acquisition were taken and in July 2000, the Additional Collector, Mumbai Suburban District informed BMC that the Land Acquisition Officer had requested for a new proposal to be submitted regarding the proposed acquisition, as the earlier acquisition proceedings had been closed.
The petitioner trust reminded BMC to look into the acquisition proceedings which remained pending for more than 25 years and the BMC was further reminded to pay compensation for handing over the possession of the said land.
The petitioner trust finally served a purchase notice dated September 2011 under Section 127 of the MRTP Act requesting the BMC to either de-reserve the land or acquire it within 12 months.
The court examined the decision of the Supreme Court in Tukaram Kana Joshi and Ors. Vs. Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation & Ors and noted:
“The legal obligation on the part of the authorities is to complete the acquisition proceedings at the earliest and to make payment of requisite compensation. It is clear that the Respondents cannot deprive the Petitioners from enjoying the said land by retaining the said land without completing its acquisition. “
Further, the court looked at the SC’s decision in Shrirampur Municipal Council, Shrirampur Vs. Satyabhamabai Bhimaji Dawkher and Ors and held that since no declaration contemplated in Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 was published, acquisition of land has lapsed. Thus, the petition was allowed.