Bombay high court declares “Every open space in this city is extremely precious,”

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“Every open space in this city is extremely precious,” said the Bombay high court on Thursday while expressing concern over the fact that a children’s park in Malabar Hill had been purportedly enclosed by a housing society, which is using it as its private garden.

The division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Mahesh Sonak said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) should promptly act to make the 1,021 sq m garden available to all. “How can a public property be allowed to be taken away like this?” the judges asked.

“Everybody wishes to have a beautiful garden in front of their houses, but they can’t just enclose a public garden and treat it as a private property,” added the bench.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Sanjay Kokate, a 45-year-old local resident, against the alleged usurpation of the public garden. He said the public property was being used for commercial purpose – a high-end gymnasium and a swimming pool.

Advocate Anil Sakhare, who represented the gymnasium, said they have neither encroached upon nor enclosed any public area. A lawyer representing the housing society — DSK Tower — said the developer had handed over the property to the society along with the garden area.

The judges were angry to note that the plot was developed under a contract with the BMC, but the civic officials did not bother to ensure that the terms and conditions of the contract were duly complied with by the developer and the children’s park was open to all.

The court has now directed the BMC, the housing society and the gymnasium to submit sanctioned plans for development of the plot and posted the PIL for further hearing on November 13 after BMC counsel, advocate Trupti Puranik, sought time to respond to the allegations made in the PIL.