The full bench of Bombay High Court had given a clear pro-people verdict on September 3, 2014 saying that state government still has powers to seize land under Urban Land Ceiling Act, 1976, (ULC) even after its repeal in 2007. It said that section 20 of the original Act is saved as per section 3 of the repeal Act. What this meant was that all the extra land with private companies in the state could be taken back. But the state government ignored this order to help corporate builder lobby, allowing them a windfall of thousands of crore rupees as reported by Newsclick earlier.
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The total land area involved in this matter is almost 2808 hectares. This is estimated to have a staggering value of almost Rs.50 thousand crore as per Mumbai's current market rate. By ignoring the High Court order, the Fadnavis government handed over this windfall to corporate owners.
The State government tried to hide behind the report by a commission that it had appointed to find the 'way out' in ULC land dispute. The two-member commission, comprising BN Shrikrishna (former judge) and BN Makhija (former health secretary), was appointed in 2016. Its report came out in October 2018 and was accepted by the state government in a cabinet decision on November 16 2018.
Between 2014 when the High Court passed its order and 2018 when the Shrikrishna Commission report was accepted by the Devendra Fadnavis led BJP government, a mad scramble went on to save the land from getting handed over to the people. The Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI) appealed in Supreme Court against the Bombay HC order. In February 2019, Maharashtra government filed an affidavit in the apex court saying that the matter pertaining to the appeal by MCHI should be allowed to be withdrawn because both the parties (state govt and MCHI) had come to 'consent terms' paving the way for implementation of the Shrikrishna Commission report. State government filed these consent terms in SC in February 2019. It asserted that the Shrikrishna Commission report was accepted by the Cabinet in November 2018.
But things have now taken a bizarre turn.
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Sanjay Rane, a worker with Godrej company in Vikroli, Mumbai's Eastern suburb filed an RTI application with the State Government asking for a copy of the Shrikrishna Commission report which allegedly allows State Government to clear private housing projects on ULC exempted lands. He got reply on April 24, 2019 given by the Department of Urban Development (UD). The reply surprisingly said, "The Shrikrishna Commission Report is under consideration of state government and so it can't be given under RTI"!
In short, State government’s Cabinet decides to accept the report on on November 16, 2018, it files an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that it has accepted the report and then, on April 24, 2019, it says, in an RTI response, that the report has not been accepted, it is under consideration.
"Why State Government is lying in RTI? Or is it lying to Supreme Court? One thing is sure. State government knows that by ignoring Bombay HC full bench order as well as interim stay of supreme court of no coercive steps meanwhile in (MCHI) appeal, it has committed contempt. And to save its skin, it is now misleading people on record," alleged Vishwas Utagi, convener of Trade Union Joint Action Committee.
Workers’ Unions and civil society groups have been fighting against this scam of the BJP led Maharashtra state government. They say that the land should be made available to lakhs of poor people in the metropolis who live in slums or hovels in dire conditions.