Supreme Court’s verdict on forest land has opens Thane-Lonavla stretch for development

Saturday, 1 February 2014 - 6:46am IST | Agency: DNA
SC ruling to benefit realtors who had bought plots but could not develop them due to pvt forestland tag

The Supreme Court’s verdict on forest land has opened up huge tracts of land for development and construction. It was a shot in the arm for builders who had bought vacant land but had to stop construction due to the row.

On Thursday, the apex court set aside the Bombay high court ruling and notices regarding encroached lands in areas surrounding the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Around 5.5 lakh home buyers in Mulund, Thane, Kandivli, Borivli, Goregaon and so on stand to benefit from this. “The entire stretch from Mulund, Thane, Kalyan, Badlapur up to Lonavla can now be freed up for construction,” said Shailesh Puranik of Puranik Builders.

Lalit Kumar Jain, chairman of CREDAI and chairman and managing director of Kumar Urban development Limited, agreed. “The judgment will finally pave way for development of forest land which has been lying vacant for years. This can also set a precedent for development of huge government-owned land such as the railways and Bombay Port Trust which are being misused and illegally encroached by slum dwellers,” he said.

Dharmesh Jain, managing director of Nirmal Lifestyle, says it will take some time for the judgment to take effect. “It’s a welcome relief and will benefit home buyers and realtors whose projects were stuck. And it will bring in fresh stock into the market. However, that will take at least a year as developers of stalled projects will have to apply for fresh permission,” said Jain.

Nirmal Lifestyle group has 10 acres of land in Mulund entangled in the controversy. “The SC ruling will give the project an impetus, but it’ll take time as we will have to apply afresh,” said its MD.
The builders will have to apply afresh for occupancy certificate, construction certificate and submit new plans for their unfinished/stalled projects.

Welcoming the SC ruling, Shailesh Puranik of Puranik Builders, president of MCHI-CREDAI, said: “This will help stuck projects to move forward. And it’ll make my project on the 3acre land at Ghodbunder Road legal. People staying in these flats are now lawful occupants.”

“The government should expedite the process of approval and also implement a single-window clearance system,” said Lalit.

The affected Mulund residents don’t seem in any mood to wait any longer. Prakash Padikkal, the key petitioner in the case, says: “If they delay the regularisation process, we will approach the SC and ask the state to pay the NPV of Rs110 crore along with interest, which we had paid earlier,” he said.

A LONG WAIT FOR DREAM HOME
Prakash Padikkal, a Mulund resident and one of the petitioners, said more than 50,000 people in then area will now get Occupational Certificates (OCs). “The developers were not getting the OCs and so they were not handing over legal possession of flats to buyers. Buyers, who invested money and paid high interest rates, will get their dream home after a long wait. Besides, people who have the got the houses will start applying for land conveyance deeds,” said Padikkal.

They now expect the BMC to develop unpaved roads in their colony. “We are expecting large scale of development and that will make the realty rate competitive,” said Padikkal.

273 The total number of projects in Thane, Mulund and other parts of Mumbai stalled due to the controversy. The projects will now get a fresh lease of life

Stalled projects
Atithi Builders: When 22 of its 33 acres off LBS Marg in Mulund were declared private forest land

Runwal Group: It bought 10 acres plot at Mulund and procured civic permission to start work but it also had to stall the project

Nirmal Lifestyle: It bought 10 acres in Mulund but its project got stuck

What next
The builders will have to apply afresh for occupancy certificate, construction certificate and submit new plans for their unfinished/stalled projects

TRACKING THE land CASE
In 2002, Bombay Environmental Action Group, an NGO, filed a PIL regarding encroachment on more than 1,000 acres of private forest land in and around Mumbai.

In 2006, Hillside Residents’ Welfare Association, Mulund, whose land had been notified as forest land, filed a counter PIL. Bombay HC upheld the state’s contention that they were encroachers. The residents and  developers approached SC, which directed Central Empowered Committee to file  suggestions. The CEC recommended that  house owners pay afforestation fee and get homes regularised.

On Jan 30, SC set aside all earlier rulings of Bombay high court.


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