The Bombay high court on Thursday set aside the joint charity commissioner’s (CC) order preventing the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) from selling the flats it has built in Panthaki Baug in Andheri. The Baug has two buildings comprising 108 flats, of which 74 are yet to be sold. The BPP had planned to sell these flats at market rates to cross subsidise housing for needy Parsis.
The joint charity commissioner in November last had revoked the permission to sell the flats given earlier by the commissioner’s office on the grounds that the Punchayet had concealed facts. The order decreed that the flats should now be either sold to poor Parsis at susbsidised rates, or be leased to them. It said that Parsis would be selected by a representative of the BPP, and if not, by the commissioner himself.
Setting aside this order, the division bench of Justice D Deshmukh and Rajesh Ketkar on Thursday directed that the proceeds from the sale be utilised to construct new flats for poor, needy or deserving Parsis. Deshmukh said, "The Punchayet has to construct 300-400 flats in the next two years from these proceeds." The Punchayet can now sell the flats at Rs2,400 per sq ft.
"Our policy [of cross subsidy] has been upheld by the court. We are happy with the decision," said chairperson of the BPP, Dinshaw Mehta. Kersi Randeria, who had challenged the commercial sale, was also satisfied with the order. "They (new BPP trustees) haven’t constructed flats for poor Parsis in a long time, and now they will be forced to construct 300 of them as per their admission made to the court."
SC judge to review 104 pending allotments
The division bench on Thursday also directed that a retired Supreme Court judge be appointed to review the 104 housing allotments cleared by the previous board of trustees for needy Parsis, but which the new board has so far failed to honour.
A section of Parsis had approached the charity commissioner’s office after waiting for years to get houses from the Trust. The joint charity commissioner had asked the BPP trustees to make these allotments. When the Punchayet said it had only 74 residential flats readily available, the commissioner had asked the Trust to reveal the total number of houses in its possession.
After the Punchayet did not comply, the commissioner had stayed the sale of the 74 flats, and had threatened the Trust with annulment. The BPP then filed a writ petition against the order in the high court in March.
Justice Deshmukh said, "The appointed judge will review all the 104 cases and allot houses to the poor, needy or deserving Parsis in accordance with the merit rating scheme of the Punchayet, and his decision will be binding on both the parties." The court has set a time limit of six weeks for thereview, which will be conducted by JusticeB Srikrishna.