After almost three decades of litigation, the Bombay Parsi Punchayat is free to construct at least a hundred flats at Punthaky Baug in Andheri. Last Friday, the Supreme Court cleared the decks for the Punchayat when it dismissed two special leave petitions filed before it that were preventing the trust from providing these houses to Parsis by way of a cross-subsidy scheme.
The Punchayat said it faced the "the long-standing dispute caused by the late Pestonji Dhunjishaw Zilla and after his demise, his legal heirs" and with the SC order, Dinshaw Mehta, its chairperson, said "hopefully it has come to an end".
The disputes dated back to 1969 when Zilla initially laid claims to some parts of Punthaky Baug and allegedly extended his claims over the years. In 1982, the Punchayat filed a suit against Zilla and were granted an injunction against him entering or dealing with the land. Zilla, too, filed a suit against the Punchayat but in 2004, the HC decreed the Punchayat`s suit and dismissed Zilla`s suit. During the intervening years, several attempts by Zilla before the revenue department and other government authorities to stake claim to the land were defeated. Even Zilla wanted to sell a portion of the land and the HC had, at one point, even fined him Rs 5,000 and punished him for civil contempt of court.
After the suits were decided in favour of the Punchayat, Zilla filed two appeals. He died while they were pending, but this year, his successors sought to revive those appeals and claimed that they had a right over the land. When they received no order from the high court, they recieved an exparte status quo order from the Supreme Court. The Punchayat pursued the matter vigorously in the HC and finally on December 3, 2010, the SC dismissed appeals filed by Zilla`s successors and thus upheld the HC order. Both sides engaged top counsels with Zilla appointing Harish Salve and Mukul Rotagi while the BPP was represented in the SC by Rohinton Nariman, Shyam Divan, Amar Dave and solicitor Jehangir Mistry of law firm Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe and M/s.Karanjawala in Delhi.