IN A relief to a school for special kids in Colaba, Mumbai, the Bombay High Court last week directed the estate officer to consider an earlier eviction order as just a “prima facie opinion” and to decide afresh if the land on which the school is located belongs to the Army. The court passed the order after the central government said it has taken back an earlier eviction order and would decide the school’s contention afresh.
The Able Disabled All People Together (ADAPT), formerly known as The Spastics Society of India, is run by Padma Shri awardee Mithu Alur and provides education to special kids. The school received an eviction order on November 20, asking it to vacate the premises within 15 days, prompting it to move the High Court.
The school submitted that it was a tenant of the adjoining Afghan Church since 1972 and could not be called “public premise”, and that the estate officer was not competent to pass such an eviction order.
A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Milind N Jadhav on December 18 passed the order on a petition filed by ADAPT and Alur.
The petitioner challenged the show-cause notice of July 20 and orders of estate officer issued on November 17 and 20, under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, which directed the petitioner to vacate the premises.
Advocates Sunip Sen and Shubro Dey contended that the authority was not competent to issue such a notice as the school is not situated on a “public premise”. The petitioner said the estate officer did not decide the issue of its propriety to pass such an order.
While the central government argued that the petitioner could seek a remedy by making an appeal against the estate officer’s order, the petitioner said there is no question of relegating to an alternate remedy as the initial order was without jurisdiction.
The court observed that the petitioners have not been able to effectively represent themselves due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The HC asked the school to file its reply to the show-cause notice within two weeks “without any prejudice to its rights and contentions regarding the issue of jurisdiction”. The bench also allowed the petitioner to make a representation for the inspection of documents related to the premises.
The court directed the estate officer to follow procedure and pass a reasoned order. It also noted that the earlier orders passed should be treated as “prima facie opinion”, and disposed of the plea.