In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court highlighted that private agreements cannot supersede the statutory mandate of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) in Slum Rehabilitation Schemes. The Court emphasized the SRA’s pivotal role as the final authority in implementing these schemes under the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance, and Redevelopment) Act, 1971.
The judgment by Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia referenced the Bombay High Court’s decision in Smt. Usha Dhondi ram Khairnar v. State of Maharashtra and Others, 2016 SCC OnLineBom 11505, underscoring that the SRA must act according to its policies and circulars, not allowing private interests to undermine public welfare policies.
The case involved a Slum Rehabilitation Scheme proposed by the SRA for the Lower Parel Division slum in Mumbai. While construction of several towers began and many slum dwellers were resettled, a dispute arose, halting the project’s completion.
The matter escalated when a minority group within the slum dwellers formed a separate society, and a private arrangement, an MoU, was reached between this group and the Developer. This private agreement aimed to construct certain towers exclusively for the members of this minority society.
Subsequently, the Developer approached the SRA seeking compliance with the MoU’s terms. However, the SRA decided to allocate flats in accordance with its circulars, which involved allotment by draw of lots for all hutment dwellers, rather than honoring the private agreement.
This decision led to litigation, with the appellant society challenging the SRA’s order before the Bombay High Court. The appellant sought preferential allotment for its members based on the private arrangement with the Developer, which was rejected by the High Court.
The Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision, asserting that the private arrangement was outside the purview of the SRA’s statutory mandate. The Court emphasized that the SRA’s established procedure for allotment by draw of lots is in accordance with the law and cannot be bypassed by private arrangements.
In its final ruling, the Court directed the SRA to proceed with the allotment of flats in adherence to the established statutory procedures. Additionally, it recommended that the SRA should investigate the Developer’s actions and take appropriate action if the Developer had bypassed statutory procedures.
The verdict reinforces the authority of the SRA in executing Slum Rehabilitation Schemes, emphasizing the adherence to statutory processes over private agreements between developers and minority groups within slum dwellers.