The Bombay High Court today said the state-run planning agency MMRDA can not "throw out" residents from their homes just because their land needs to be acquired for the Mumbai Metro.
A bench of Justices A S Oka and R I Chagla made the observation while hearing a petition filed by occupants of a housing society at Andheri Link Road.
According to the petitioners, the housing society had applied for permission for repairs and redevelopment earlier this year when it was informed that some part of the society might be affected by the metro project.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) subsequently informed the residents that around 1,062 sq metres of the land that cuts through the buildings in the society will be acquired for the project.
The MMRDA is the nodal agency for development of the metro network in the megapolis.
The said acquisition will affect around 42 residential and commercial units within the society.
The petitioners told the HC that while they were willing to cooperate with the government and give up their land, they were entitled to receive land or residences at an alternate spot in lieu of the same.
However, when they wrote to the MMRDA asking for an alternate accommodation, the latter asked them to prove their bona fide, and to submit all documents related to the construction, occupancy and ownership of their homes and shops.
If they failed to do so, the residents would lose out on the alternate accommodation, the state-run agency said.
The petitioners told the HC they were not illegal encroachers, and that the society was not an illegal slum that the MMRDA was threatening to throw them out and acquire their land without following proper procedure.
This prompted the bench to observe that the MMRDA could not render them homeless and acquire their land without following due process of law.
"Just because you are the metro project, doesn't mean that you can take over any land without following the due process of law.
"The MMRDA can't throw people out of their homes just because it needs their land for the metro. They have rights over their private properties," the bench noted.
The bench, thus, restrained the MMRDA from taking any coercive action against the petitioners until further orders from the court.
It directed the MMRDA to consider and expeditiously decide upon the petitioners' request for the alternate accommodation in accordance with the law.
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