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April 25, 2018
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Slum dwellers win 30-year battle for a homeNew Delhi: For over three decades, 800 slum dwellers of Om Namo Sujlam Suflam Cooperative Housing Society have fought builders, promoters, and even the society’s office-bearers to retain the 23018.5 square metre land they own in the heart of Mumbai.

The land, located in Santacruz (East) and once owned by a Parsi Trust, was handed over to them in 1985. The slum dwellers formed a society and decided to develop their land. They entered into an agreement with Susme Builders Pvt Ltd. However, no work was done. Susme blamed it on the repeated PILs filed in the Bombay High Court.

Then began the several rounds of litigation over the next 30 years. “A dream turned into a nightmare. The dream of over 800 slum dwellers, who also happen to be owners of the land, of having a permanent roof over their head has not turned into reality for more than three decades,” a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said on Monday.

The apex court called the case unique. “This is a unique case where the slum is owned by the society of which the slum dwellers themselves are the members,” Justice Gupta, who authored the 86-page judgement, said.

The apex court denied Susme relief, saying the builder treated the slum dwellers “only as a means of making money”. The court also agreed with its own expert panel led by former SC judge B.N. Srikrishna that neither Susme nor J.G. Developers, another builder, who later came into the picture, enjoyed required support of at least 70% of the slum dwellers to go ahead with the work.

The court held that the Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA) does have the power to revoke the permission granted to Susme. Issuing a slew of guidelines to the SRA, the Supreme Court directed the authority to invite fresh letters of interest from builders. “The successful developer should complete the rehabilitation within two years from the date of sanction of the plan. The bidder must give a bank guarantee of ₹200 crore to ensure that it does not violate the terms and conditions of the rehabilitation scheme,” the court directed.