Tenants, licencees and lessees join hands to strengthen their fight against increased rental charges
“We will take to the streets if our grievances are not heard,” warns MP Shri Arvind Sawant
Mumbai, October 5, 2021: The stakeholders (tenants, licencees and lessees) of the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) held a joint meeting with Member of Parliament Shri Arvind Sawant at the M.C. Ghia Hall, Fort, Mumbai on Monday and sought his support in their fight against unreasonable hike in rental charges. A press conference was also held where the users of the MbPT land opposed the new revision in rentals and announced the formation of Eastern Mumbai Land Users Association which would take ahead their fight for withdrawal of the revised rates.
With the revision in rent made by MbPT, the rentals have gone up by several times increasing the burden of the tenants, licencees and lessees. Many tenants have been receiving eviction notices for non-payment of outstanding bills. The trust had sent notices to 1,149 non home occupation plots. The stakeholders association states that there cannot be a standardized formula to deal with all cases and all the 775 lessees who have responded to the notice have a right to separate hearing.
The Eastern Mumbai Land Users Association formed will hence be the body representing the lessees, tenants and licencees who are the users of the MbPT land.
Extending his support to the tenants and stakeholders, MP Shri Arvind Sawant said, “The people staying on MbPT land are not Tatas or Ambanis. They are common man. Hence, this stiff rise of 6 per cent in rental charges is not right. I want to ask the Central Government, why is the development plan of MbPT land not being implemented?” Shri Sawant announced that if the Central Government and MbPT do not listen to their grievances within a few days, they will not hesitate to take to the streets.
The Mumbai Port Trust had sent notices dated August 12, 2021 and August 14, 2021 seeking comments on revision of schedule rates for the period 2017-2022 and 2012-2017 respectively in respect of eight ready reckoner zones of the properties owned by MBPT. A public meeting was held online on September 3, 2021 via Microsoft Teams. The stakeholders allege that they did not get a reasonable and fair opportunity to make their submissions and have sought personal hearing and representation through legal counsel.
“The proposed schedule of rates (SOR) is not just exorbitantly high and unreasonable, it is also being charged retrospectively with effect from 2012, which is arbitrary and unfair. We have given our representation to the Tariff Authority of Major Ports (TAMP) and we expect them to disapprove the rates proposed to be charged retrospectively by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT),” said Mohan Gurnani, Chairman, Chamber of Association of Maharashtra Industry and Trade (CAMIT).
It may be noted that the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Jamshed Hormusji Wadia judgement required MbPT to extend leases from 1994 for a period of 30 years. But the Mumbai Port Trust followed it till 2012 and made revision in rates thereafter. The stakeholders state that they have regularly paid the rents as per the SC ruling and if the MbPT seeks to revise rates, it is incumbent upon them to move the Supreme Court and seek relief. The MbPT land is leasehold and cannot be equated with freehold land prices. Moreover, there are several restrictions for lessees and therefore, ready reckoner land rates cannot be a factor taken into account for harassing tenants. As per the stakeholders, 10 per cent of Kirloskar value with 4 per cent increment year on year was the Supreme Court formula which should be ideally followed.
“As per section 27 (f) (i) of Major Port Trusts Act, 2021, imposition of rates cannot be with retrospective effect. The issuance of effective date is only a formality and considering the MPT Act, 2021 such retrospective rates are contrary to the current law and opposed to public policy,” stated the letter sent by the stakeholders to MbPT.
“We are not against increasing the lease rent. However, the increase should be reasonable, justified and affordable to all the tenants/stakeholders involved, said Rajeev Khandelwal, Vice president, CAMIT.