SC Clears Decks For Andheri Building Redevelopment, Asks Minority Flat-Owners To Vacate By May 10 [Read Order]

SC Clears Decks For Andheri Building Redevelopment, Asks Minority Flat-Owners To Vacate By May 10 [Read Order]

The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the decks for the redevelopment of a building in Andheri (W), dismissing a plea for intervention filed by four society members who refused to vacate.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice S.K. Kaul found no ground for interference in exercise of the powers under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution, and directed the flat-owners, in minority, to leave peacefully by May 10, or be forcefully evicted.

The Bombay High Court had, earlier in February, appointed a Court Receiver to take over possession of the four flats located in an over 50-year-old dilapidated building located at Azad Nagar in Andheri West. Justice G.S. Patel had then rapped the flat-owners, observing, “This fashion in this city, and it is nothing more than a fashion, of a few occupants trying to hold up entire development without heed or regard to the adverse consequences to their neighbors and fellow members is to be deprecated in the strongest possible terms. There is a word for these actions. It is an unpleasant word but it is one that leaps immediately to mind. These Respondents demand the luxury of a hearing, the leave to expansive arguments, but they refuse to be put to terms. Their obstruction delays redevelopment. It harms their own society. It hurts their fellow members and neighbors. Such parties must be put to terms.”

Justice Patel was hearing a Petition filed by the builder, Pratham Varadvinayak Developers LLP, against the four flat-owners, after they refused to abide by a unanimous resolution passed by Azad Nagar Shiv Sagar Cooperative Housing Society. The Society had appointed the builder after a 2006 plan for redevelopment lay mired in legal battles for a decade. The four flat-owners were, however, opposing the redevelopment, demanding the appointment of another developer, and contending that the developer had not obtained the required permissions from the authorities.

The developer refuted such contentions by submitting the IOD certificate received up to the plinth level, following which the Court had rapped the four flat-owners, observing, “For these persons, courts are always a playground in which they engage their idle fancies and fantasies about what is and what is not legal, right and proper. Nothing they have or say puts them above the law. It only makes them, one and all, outlaws. These are redevelopment vigilantes. There is no space in any courtroom for them.”

The Court had then directed the occupants to vacate the flats and offer possession to the Court Receiver by March 10. It had further permitted the Court Receiver to forcibly take possession on March 11, if the flats were not handed over.

Subsequently, the order was challenged by the four members before a Division Bench of the High Court. The Bench comprising Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice B.P. Colabawalla had then, last month, held that if the four flat-owners do not hand over vacant and peaceful possession of the premises which they occupy on or before May 10, 2017, then, the Court Receiver will step in to take “all such steps that are permissible in law” to have them removed.

“However, since the redevelopment is resisted by only four persons presently, we are of the view that interest of justice would be served if we still grant an opportunity to the appellants to cooperate by vacating the existing premises and structures in their occupation and possession. We grant them time to do so and to hand over vacant and peaceful possession thereof to the first respondent or the competent authorities so as to cause a demolition and removal of the same from the site,” it had observed. The Supreme Court was now hearing a Special Leave Petition challenging this order.

Read the Order here.