Court upholds judgment on public advertisement

The Bombay High Court on Thursday ruled against a trust that had decided not to issue a public advertisement for the redevelopment of a property in the prime locality of Girgaum. Interestingly, the trust had claimed that its tenants wanted the redevelopment to be undertaken only by a Maharashtrian developer and thus chose a company from among only four builders.

The trust Late Rao Bahadur Anant Shivaji Desai Topiwala Charity has been in existence since 1926. In June last year, its trustees made an application for redevelopment on the grounds that the buildings had become old and some portions had collapsed. The trust subsequently appointed Raunak Corporation for carrying out the work, without issuing any advertisement for the project. An application filed by the trust for appointment of the developer was allowed by the Charity Commissioner.

Subsequently, responding to a plea filed by a group of tenants of the trust, a single judge of the High Court held that it was necessary to issue advertisements for the project.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar, while hearing an appeal filed by Raunak Corporation, agreed with the stand taken by the single judge. The bench noted that the Charity Commissioner, who would decide whether advertisements should be issued or not, had a duty to ensure that the trust property was not misused.

Commenting on the claim about the insistence to rope in a Maharashtrian developer, the court observed, "It appears to be more of an attempt by the trustees to whip up emotive issues to keep the tenants in the dark about the true worth of the properties."

The judgment also noted, "In recent decades, the need for regulatory mechanism has become stronger as property prices have shot up, especially in urban areas... such lucrative properties create temptations for the trustees to stray from charitable intentions."

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