It was an overwhelming experience for those present in the courtroom presided over by a vacation bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Surendra Tavade as the recipients were mostly senior citizens, including an 88-year-old, leaning on their walking sticks and had to be helped in. One of the recipients was disabled. As Justice Kathawalla called out their names, they came forward, took the keys to their apartments in the 27-storey Earth Terrace and bowed with joined hands.
The court had heard a petition by 19 out of 120 tenants of the erstwhile Gajanan Colony, which comprised four buildings, at Eksar Pahadi. They had vacated their homes in 2014, and though the redeveloped building was ready and occupation certificate had been granted in February 2021, the landlord/developer Earth Graphics did not hand over possession. He made “illegal” demands such as charges for chajja/overhanging eave and a 99-year lease. Of all the tenants, only these few arranged for funds and moved the HC. On November 3, to “put an end to the long-standing dispute”, the judges insisted that the developer hand the keys to them in their presence.
The tenants’ advocates Amogh Singh and Bhavin Bhatia said the developer now wants an undertaking that they will not sell their ownership flats for 10 years. The judges questioned the developer’s son whether it was part of the permanent alternative accommodation agreement. He replied it was decided later. The developer’s advocate Shanay Shah said: “They (tenants) must take liability of the society whenever we hand over.” The judges said the original tenants and their legal heirs shall abide by conditions in the agreement.
Advocate Singh said there are over 100 tenants and relief is granted to the ones who were able to approach HC. “They will actually have a very happy Diwali,” he added. “Happy Diwali,’’ a smiling Justice Kathawalla wished the tenants.
The group was happy and relieved as they left the court. When TOI asked how they felt, Sakarben Gala, 78, and Jayaben Shah, 75, chorused: “Bahu saru (very good).” Amit Shah, son of Arunaben, 67, said: “We stayed for almost 30-35 years in the old buildings. We have been out for seven years. We have an emotional attachment to the place. We are happy to be back.”
A frail Suryaben Shah, 88, was the cynosure of all eyes. She sat slumped in a chair resting her feet, and while leaving appeared exhausted. A happy Pushpa Shetty, 59, distributed kachoris and chocolates.
Jitendra Shah, son of Dhanlaxmi Shah, 79, was in tears. After composing himself, he said: “He (builder) created hurdles for us to get our homes. Our fight is over.’’