By Accommodation Times Bureau
In an interim order on June 15, the Bombay high court has restrained BMC from taking possession of Priyadarshini Park at Neapean Sea Road from Malabar Hill Citizen’s Forum(MHCF). A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Vibha Kankanwadi ordered the civic body to respond to a petition filed by MHCF challenging the order of taking over 65,000 sq meters of parks in South Mumbai. Since 1985 MHCF has been maintaining the park that embodies a sports complex. Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, in April 2017, ordered the superintendent of gardens to immediately take possession of the land.
Priyadarshini Park was developed on the land after it was handed over to MHCF on adoption basis in 1985. BMC recently argufied the adoption policy and instead have developed a plan to introduce a caretaker policy. The park is spread, approximately, over 40,000 square meters and includes children’s swings, dangles and hammocks, walkways and jogging areas.
The park also embodies a sports complex with an Olympic-size eight-lane synthetic athletic track, four synthetic tennis courts, aerobic studio, gymnasium, yoga hall and football ground. “Priyadarshini Park is not just a plot of land or a club but a full-fledged vibrant composite sports complex and environmental park open to all,” MHCF said in its petition.
In December 2016, BMC had issued a notice to MHCF alleging violation of “several” regulations of the civic adoption policy for open spaces. This notice was withdrawn and the HC had ordered BMC to hear the association. In January 2017, a fresh notice was issued, and in April, the commissioner ordered the park’s takeover.
The HC has scheduled the petition for further hearing on July 21.
BMC has a list of accusations against the MHCF such as violating agreement terms, commercializing for profit, not paying annual royalty of Re1, and not paying property and other taxes. The association disputed the corporation’s claims. “By no stretch of imagination can plaques put on benches or garden railings be called subletting or advertisements,” said senior advocate Darius Khambata, MHCF’s counsel. The association is arguing that the sports complex- gymnasiums were set up after the needed permission from the Government of India, state government and BMC.