After Losing Rs 500-Cr Jogeshwari Plot, BMC Plans To Amend Town Planning Act
Red-faced with embarrassment over losing a Rs 500-crore plot at Jogeshwari, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning g to amend the Mumbai Regional Town Planning (MRTP) Act. After the municipal body failed to acquire the 14,000-square-metre plot, which was set aside for developing a recreational centre and a hospital in the 1991 development plan, within the stipulated timeline, the owner in 2014 sent a notice to the BMC, saying he would claim ownership if the civic body failed to acquire it within a year. Amid documentary exchanges, the civic body failed to do so and subsequently moved the court. It lost against the owner in the Bombay High Court as well as the Supreme Court.
The negligence shown by the officials in the matter that led to the loss of the prime land has opened Pandora’s Box —several officials have been suspended while a full-fledged inquiry is underway to fix responsibility. The BMC has also filed a special leave petition in the apex court over the matter.
In the meantime, the BMC is busy working out the details of a draft to amend the MRTP Act with an aim to redefine the role of planning authorities in such matters to save face in the aftermath.
“We are proposing certain things to tighten the entire process of land acquisition. We will be sending the proposal to the state government, which will take a final call,” BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta was quoted by The Hindu as saying.
There are two key accounts on which the BMC lost the prime property — the confusion over purchase notice. Section 127 of the Act says either the owner or an "interested party" can serve a purchase notice to the planning authority. In the Jogeshwari case, the purchase notice was sent by an interested party and not by the owner. BMC officials say the confusion in the matter led to the BMC losing the case. In the amended draft, the civic body plans to clarify the term "interested party".
Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act stipulated that the district collector must issue a notification after the BMC passes a resolution to acquire land. In the Jogeshwari plot case, the resolution had been passed but, no notification had been issued by the district collector within the stipulated timeline. This led to the reservation getting lapsed. If the state government accepts the proposal to amend the Act, reservation of a plot would not lapse even if a notification over the matter has not been published. Once the BMC passes a resolution, it would be enough to acquire the said property.