Shibu Thomas-MUMBAI: Housing projects by builders on tribal land in Mumbai and Thane have come under the scanner of the Bombay high court. A division bench of Justice P B Majmudar and Justice Amjad Sayed has given the state government and the BMC time till February 23 to verify the legality of development deals on tribal land, when the law prohibits sale of such land without the permission of the authorities concerned.
The HC was hearing a PIL filed by tribal rights organization Adivasi Sarvangin Vikas Samiti. Under section 36 and 36 A of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, there is a specific bar against the transfer of property owned by a tribal to a non-tribal, unless requisite permission is taken from authorities. The petitioners alleged that builders have adopted ingenious ways to bypass this rule. The builders enter into development agreements with the tribal land owner without actually signing a sale transaction. A power of attorney is also signed where all rights on the land are transferred to the builder.
Alleging rampant use of this modus operandi in Mumbai and Thane,The petitioner claims that the corporation approves development plans on such buildings without verifying that the land is owned by a tribal. “Not only are the tribals cheated, but also the common man who puts in his hard earned money to buy a flat on such disputed properties,” claimed the petitioner. The PIL said that housing projects on such land were in violation of the rule. They have also alleged a collusion between builders, revenue department officers and BMC officers to alienate land that rightfully belongs to tribals.
The HC said it would have to decide the issue raised in the PIL whether such development agreements are permissible, or if they violate the special provisions meant to protect land owned by tribals. Assistant government pleader V D Patil sought time to find out from the revenue department whether such development agreements without the permission of the collector are allowed. The HC has asked the BMC to obtain appropriate information on the issue.