The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to hand over two south Mumbai flats to their owner, a 93-year-old woman, putting an end to a property dispute that dragged on for eight decades.
The flats are situated on the first floor of Ruby Mansion in south Mumbai and measure 500 sq ft and 600 sq ft. On March 28, 1942, the building was requisitioned under the then Defence of India Act, which allowed the British rulers of the time to take possession of private properties.
A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and M M Sathaye in its order of May 4 noted that despite de-requisition orders passed in July 1946, the flats were never handed back to the owner – Alice D’souza. The properties are presently occupied by the legal heirs of a former government official. D’souza in her petition had sought a direction to the Maharashtra government and the Collector of Mumbai to implement the July 1946 de-requisition orders and to hand over possession of the flats to her.
The nonagenarian’s plea was opposed by the present occupants of the flat who are the legal heirs of one D S Laud, who was inducted into the premises in the 1940s under the requisition order. Laud was a government officer in the civil services department at the time.
D’souza in her petition claimed that the requisition order was withdrawn but still the possession of the flat was not handed over to the rightful owner. Possession of other flats in the building was handed back to its owners, the plea said. The bench in its order noted that physical possession of the premises was never handed over to the owner (D’souza) and hence the de-requisition was not complete.
“We have no hesitation to hold that in the present case, the premises have continued to be under requisition,” HC said.
The court directed the state government to “hand over vacant and peaceful possession of the subject matter premises to the petitioner owner (D’souza) after taking its possession from the present occupants within eight weeks”.