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Lavasa Corp takes objection to plea filed by tribals

The multi-crore hill city, said to be India`s first such project, has been facing problems for the last few month.

Mumbai: Days after two tribals from Pune district filed a petition in the Bombay High Court challenging a Government notification which empowers Lavasa Corp to act as a special planning authority, the company termed the move as "motivated and malafide".
The realty firm, constructing a hill city (called Lavasa) near Pune, said the tribals, residents of Mulshi taluka, have no locus to file the petition since they are not
owners of land in the area where the project is coming up.

In response to the January 10 petition, Lavasa Corp, in an affidavit filed in the HC, said the application has been filed "to blackmail and extort money" from the realtor, a subsidiary of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC).

The tribals, Bhandya Bhau Walhekar and his brother Babu, had approached the HC seeking quashing of the June 2008 notification of Maharashtra Urban Development Department (UDD) which gives Lavasa Corp powers to acquire land and act as
special planning authority. The petition argued that such powers cannot be delegated to a private company.

"The petitioners are not concerned with or individually affected by the notification. The petition has been filed at the instance of other purportedly public interest litigants and social workers who have been agitating against Lavasa project," claimed the affidavit filed by Sunil Khadka, Assistant Vice-President, Lavasa.

The Walhekars moved the HC after the Sub-Divisional Officer issued a notice as to why action for dispossession of their ten-hectare land should not be initiated.

The petition said after receiving the notice, they learnt their land had been transferred to Lavasa Corp, and based on the 2008 notification, the company was trying to take possession. It wanted the court to restrain Lavasa from
dispossessing them, contending that land is their only source of income.

But Lavasa Corp, in the affidavit, has stated that the petitioners are not owners or cultivators of the land in question, and dubbed their move as "motivated and malafide".

"The petitioners are not shown as owners or cultivators or persons in possession of the land as per revenue and other statutory records. There are registered
documents pursuant to which, ownership rights in respect of the said land have been transferred."

According to the affidavit, the petitioners have voluntarily sold their land by registered sale deeds. "Bhandya had sold the land to certain Sharda and Suresh Shetty on April 17, 1997. Almost 14 years after the date of execution of the
sale deeds, the petition has been filed on a factually incorrect assumption and contention that the petitioners are allegedly owners of the land."

Stating that since the petitioners have been unable to demonstrate that they have a valid and subsisting title to the land in question, the duo has no locus to challenge Lavasa Corp`s appointment as special planning authority.

The petition is likely to come up for hearing on January 31.

The multi-crore hill city, said to be India`s first such project, has been facing problems for the last few month.

It was earlier in trouble when Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a stop-work notice, citing lack of environmental clearances for the ambitious

MoEF last year cleared first phase of the project after imposing certain conditions.