A Bombay High Court bench of justices SC Dharmadhikari and Bharati Dangre, on August 16, 2018, dismissed a plea by Mafatlal Industries, which claimed that it was the rightful leaseholder of a plot of land reserved by the Maharashtra government for the expansion of the zoo in Mumbai and thus, deserved to be compensated for it. The bench dismissed the plea, after holding that it was devoid of any merits.
The dispute pertains to a 58,000-sq metre plot, adjoining the Veermata Jijabai Udyan Zoo in Byculla. The land was given on lease to Mafatlal Industries for 100 years. According to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) counsel Anil Sakhre, the lease had expired between 2012 and 2018. The BMC also stated that as per the Development Plan 1991, the land was reserved for the zoo’s expansion.
Mafatlal Industries, however, approached the high court in 2017, challenging the BMC’s decision to take over the land and then, demanding a compensation of Rs 1,600 crores, in lieu of it. It claimed that while its lease for a part of the land had expired in 2012 and for the remaining in 2018, as per a Maharashtra government resolution (GR) of 2004, it could still claim rights over the land, for an additional 30 years. Mafatlal Industries claimed that the GR permitted it to commercially exploit 50 per cent of the land for another 30 years and thus, it was still its rightful leaseholder.
The BMC, however, pointed out that the petitioner (Mafatlal Industries) was claiming a right to perpetual lease-holding, without drawing up a new lease or renewing its lease with the government, under the 2004 GR. It said while the 2004 GR had provisions for renewal of a land lease for an additional 30 years, the petitioner had not taken any steps to avail of the benefits under it.
“In view of the relevant provisions of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, as quoted hereinabove, the lease has already expired and therefore, the petitioner would necessarily be holding over at best. No fresh lease has been executed by the government, in favour of the petitioners,” Sakhre told the bench.
“A lease exceeding a period of one year, cannot be validly made, except under a registered agreement. When a lease exceeds a period of one year and it is not registered, the transaction itself is invalid and if the transaction is invalid, no party can claim the enforcement of the terms of such a transaction,” he added.