The Bombay high court recently directed Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) to carry out the required repairs on a 91-year-old bungalow, a Grade II heritage structure on Napeansea Road, in six months.
The tenant of the premise M Merchant had moved court alleging connivance of developers with Mhada officials with the intent to declare the three-storey structure dilapidated and pave the way for development, ultimately forcing them out of the house in which they have been living for many years.
A division bench of justices VM Kanade and AK Menon gave the direction after an expert panel appointed by HC opined that repairs to the property were required. It observed, "There is no point in taking (the) slightest of a chance, and with monsoon nearing, the repairs should be carried out at the earliest."
The court has directed Mhada to submit a repair plan to the petitioners beforehand and then appoint a contractor to carry out the repairs. Advocate Rima Merchant, appearing in person, had argued that they are tenants of Ram Mansion, a building built in 1923. They have occupied the ground floor, which is spread over 5,000 sqft, since 1947. In 2010, a private developer purchased the property and since then the developers have been trying to evict the tenants, she said.
On a previous hearing, the court was displeased with the fact that it has been hearing several cases like these where old tenants are harassed by developers/builders to make them vacate the premises. It had said, "We are not amused that such things are increasingly happening... a situation is created such that tenants are made to leave. We want to do something about this."
The court, while adjourning the hearing to June 17, directed the petitioners to cooperate with the authorities. It kept all the contentions raised by the petitioners open but said, "First, get the repairs done and then we can look into other issues raised by you."