The Supreme Court on Monday directed maintenance of status quo in connection with demolition of 'encroachments', mainly houses, on 369 plots reserved for public utilities in Bezanbagh area of Maharashtra's Nagpur.
The Maharashtra government had moved the top court challenging the Bombay High Court order directing the authorities concerned to demolish the encroachments. The top court had, in March, dismissed a petition filed by residents against the high court order.
The dispute dates back to 1977, when the state Revenue and Forests Department decided to take over the land from the Empress Mills and allotted it to a society, the Bezanbagh Pragatisheel Kamgar Gruh Nirman Sanatha Maryadit. Later, the society members were allotted different plots on the land and it was during that these 369 plots were allotted.
In 1979, a layout plan was prepared by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation and subsequently, there was an agreement between the society and the civic body for the development of the land, where the land in dispute was carved out for public utilities like parks, educational institutions etc.
Advocate Nishant Katneshwarkar contended before the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the government has moved the top court to save the future of families residing in houses build on the encroached land.
In 2014, the Maharashtra government decided to regularise the unauthorized constructions, while clarifying that the decision is very specific in nature and it shall not be treated as precedent to other matters.
However, in February this year, acting on a PIL against the illegal occupation on the public land, the high court ruled on the contrary. The court ordered the authorities concerned to raze the encroachments and directed the Nagpur Municipal Corporation to take possession of the vacant land, and to develop it for the purpose it was reserved in the approved layout.
The court had also directed the state government and local bodies "to see that steps are taken to prevent repeated encroachments on the land in question", and ordered the exercise to be finished within eight weeks.
The Maharashtra government informed the top court that its petition is in larger public interest. "The State is committed towards the welfare of the people, and wants to point out that without disturbing the encroachers, the government is ready to allot additional land, which can compensate for the encroached land. The High Court should have held that the decision of the Council of Ministers was for the regularization of the encroachments and for allotments of additional land," said the petition filed by the state government.