High Court grants interim stay on demolition at Wellingdon Colony

A vacation judge of Bombay High Court Saturday granted interim stay on further demolition of cottages in the Wellingdon Colony in Santa Cruz (West) till June 11. Sumer Associates, the developers and land owners of the 5.5-acre plot that houses 25 bungalows constructed between 1912 and 1917, had razed five such bungalows on June 6 following confusion between BMC, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC), and the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA).

Eighteen residents opposed to the redevelopment of the plot moved Bombay High Court after the demolition, urging it to protect 'proposed heritage structures'. Their lawyer Abhishek Khare said the case was mentioned before the court Friday and Saturday and Justice M S Sanklecha granted the interim stay. "We will seek a date Monday for the case to be heard before a regular bench of the court," Khare said.

While MHCC and a few of the colony's tenants have been campaigning against the "illegal redevelopment scheme" for the 25 bungalows, BMC and SRA claim the structures demolished do not figure the proposed list of heritage bungalows as they have been registered as 'NA'.

Khare told the court that the bungalows are "proposed heritage structures" and urged the court to stop Sumer Associates from carrying out further demolitions. "Once the structures are destroyed, what is left for the authorities to protect?" Khare said.

The Supreme Court had on March 23 dismissed the tenants' plea challenging the redevelopment of 25 cottages in the colony and observed that the tenants in opposition, whose numbers had dwindled from 15 to 5 in four years of litigation, did not represent the interests of the society of 69 tenants. The apex court upheld Bombay High Court's decision and refused a stay on the redevelopment scheme.

Khare, however, said the developers, who claimed to have the consent of the majority, had obtained the numbers wrongly. "While some members (comprising a majority of residents of the colony) are dead, others are not members at all," Khare said.

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