In a recent verdict, the Bombay High Court decisively ruled that the Apex Grievance Redressal Committee (AGRC) of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) exceeded its jurisdiction by reviewing its own order under the guise of discussing its minutes. Justice Madhav J Jamdar, presiding over the case of Sitara Anil Sharma v. Apex Grievance Redressal Committee, Slum Rehabilitation Authority, Bandra, Mumbai & Ors., invalidated an AGRC directive modifying its earlier order, emphasizing that such a move contravened the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance, and Redevelopment) Act, 1971.

The case centered on a dispute where the AGRC, initially on June 28, 2023, instructed the slum developer to remit applicable Transit Rent to the petitioner and register an Agreement executed on April 20, 2022, for Permanent Alternate Accommodation (PAA) within ten working days. However, the developer contested this, arguing that the April 20, 2022 agreement didn’t align with the Slum Redevelopment Scheme, demanding a new agreement for Permanent Alternate Accommodation. The AGRC, in its analysis, concluded that the mentioned agreement did not pertain to the SRA, stating that it was a matter solely between the developer and the applicant. The AGRC highlighted the existence of a prior PAA Agreement from November 26, 2009, covering the entitlement area for the eligible slum dweller.

Subsequently, on September 15, 2023, the AGRC revised its original order, omitting the reference to the agreement executed on April 20, 2022, and directed the builder to register and execute the Agreement for Permanent Alternate Accommodation within ten working days.

Justice Jamdar’s ruling sternly rebuffed this move, clarifying that a review application is impermissible unless explicitly allowed by statute or rules. The court emphasized that the AGRC’s actions amounted to a review under the pretext of discussing the minutes of the previous order, contravening established legal principles.

The judgment underscored that the AGRC’s modification of its earlier order lacked statutory jurisdiction, leading to the quashing of the September 15, 2023, directive. Crucially, the court maintained that parties could pursue their claims and defenses through legal channels, underscoring that its decision stemmed solely from the absence of statutory authority for the review.

Furthermore, the court highlighted the petitioner’s commitment, conveyed through counsel, to adhere to the original June 28, 2023, order by complying with the payment of applicable transit rent and executing the specified agreement. This commitment was acknowledged by the court as an undertaking, and it directed further possession proceedings based on compliance with the June 28, 2023, order.

Advocates Aniesh S Jadhav, Shyam K Singh, and Pradeep Gaikwad represented the Petitioner, while Advocate PH Kantharia stood for AGRC, and Advocate Sneha Dedhia represented the slum developer.

The court’s decision serves as a pivotal reminder of the statutory confines within which review applications must operate and emphasizes the importance of adhering to established legal procedures in administrative and quasi-judicial matters. The judgment’s firm stance on jurisdictional boundaries while leaving the substantive contentions open for future adjudication marks a significant development in preserving the sanctity of legal processes.

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