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Bombay HC sets aside sale of NTC land

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The court ruled that of the total mill land, one-third should go to the State for low-cost housing, one-third for developing open public spaces and one-third for commercial activities by mill owners.

Mumbai , Oct. 17

IN a significant judgment, the Bombay High Court on Monday set aside the sale of land owned by National Textile Corporation's (NTC) mills in Mumbai.

NTC had sold five properties for a total value of Rs 2,020.75 crore. The High Court bench, consisting of Mr Justice S. C. Dharmadhikari and Mr Justice S. Radhakrishnan, has ruled that these five plots should be equally distributed between the mill owners, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).

"All sales of mill lands carried out by NTC are clearly contrary to the Supreme Court orders dated May 11, 2005 and September 27, 2002 and contrary to the sanctioned Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) schemes," the order stated.

This means the proposed sale of 600 acres of textile mill lands owned by NTC and other private mill owners in Mumbai is on hold. NTC is expected to go in appeal.

Delivering the judgment on a public interest litigation filed by the Bombay Environmental Action Group, the Court ruled that of the total mill land, one-third should go to the State for low-cost housing, one-third for developing open public spaces and one-third for commercial activities by mill owners.

"All the constructions carried out by various developers are clearly in violation of EIA notification as amended on July 7, 2004, as admittedly, none of them have obtained clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests," the judges said.

The Court observed that the in the amended Development Control Regulation (DCR) 58 (1) (b), `open lands' would include lands after the demolition of structures. It said that the clarification dated March 28, 2003 is clearly a violation of section 37 of MRTP Act and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Under the DCR, mills were expected to give up two-thirds of the land they sold to the city for public parks and other civic amenities. However, the March 2001 amendment to Regulation 58 ensured that land on which there was construction would not fall under the `one-third formula.' This ensured that almost 90 per cent of the mill land fell outside the purview of land that needed to be shared for low-cost housing and open public places.

Speaking to newspersons after the judgment, Mr Debi Goenka, Senior Member of the Bombay Environmental Action Group, said the order was a positive one for Mumbai. "Our interpretation of open spaces has been upheld by the Court. The city will get about 200 acres of open space. It is our view that the Government's urban development policy has been short sighted and heavily biased in favour of the builders' lobby. What happened to the city on July 26 was due to the unbridled and unplanned construction activity. The MCGM knows what is happening in the city, but it chooses to turn a blind eye to the situation," Mr Goenka said.

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