Now it appears that the Bombay Dyeing group has landed into major trouble with Mumbai’s authorities.
The Maharashtra government has alleged that Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Company Ltd obtained approval for its modified proposal to utilise 33,545 sq m of its 41,895 sq m mill land in Dadar-Naigaon in central Mumbai for commercial development “in cahoots” with a section officer working in the Textile Department.
A 38-storey residential-cum-commercial tower is under construction on the plot, popularly known as Spring Mills.
“The section officer working in the Textile Department, one P D Chavan, on October 4, 2004, issued a letter to the petitioners (Bombay Dyeing) allegedly according approval to the said proposal dated August 19, 2004, without any authority of law in as much as the same was not only not approved by the hon’ble minister of textiles but also not approved by the hon’ble chief minister,” an affidavit filed by Chandrashekhar Gajbe, Deputy Secretary, Department of Cooperation, Marketing and Textiles, on December 7, 2012, states.
The affidavit was filed after Nusli Walia-majority owned Bombay Dyeing moved court against the BMC’s June 2012 stop-work notice on the company’s upcoming projects on the mill land. Bombay Dyeing had also challenged a January 5, 2012, government communication telling the BMC that no official approval was granted to the company’s modified proposal on its mill land, and the BMC asking the company’s architects to submit an amended layout in accordance with the permission granted on November 10, 2003.
Urging the court to set aside the letter issued by the government to the BMC, Bombay Dyeing has called it a “patent abuse of power” by the government and said it took into account “irrelevant”, “extraneous” and “non-germane” circumstances “clearly vitiated by legal and factual mala fides”.
The government affidavit states that Bombay Dyeing submitted a modified proposal on August 19, 2004, seeking to utilise 33,545 sq m of the land for commercial purposes and retaining only 8,349 sq m of the built-up area for textile activities. Next month, the government sought a clarification from the company regarding the modified proposals. “It is pertinent to note that till date, no clarification of any nature whatsoever has been submitted by the petitioners to the government,” Gajbe’s affidavit stated.
The alleged approval dates October 4, 2004. The state government says it had not been forwarded to either the Urban Development Department or BMC — the claims notwithstanding. Nor was it found in the records of the textile department, Gajbe has claimed.
The contentious approval first surfaced in a report of the Bombay Textile Research Association (BTRA) submitted to the government on February 18, 2009, after the chief minister directed the Urban Development Department to inspect the modernisation work undertaken by the textile mills, the affidavit states. “It was on receipt of the said report that the alleged issuance of the said approval/order dated October 4, 2004, came to light, which was illegally and unlawfully obtained by the petitioners in connivance with the said officer,” Gajbe stated.
The government was apparently not aware of the approval letter issued by Chavan for over four years. The affidavit filed bythe state government through Assistant Government Pleader G W Mattos also mentions that disciplinary action was initiated against Chavan in December 2009. On September 20, 2010, Chavan, who was promoted to the post of under secretary and transferred to the Women and Child/ Welfare Department, was placed under suspension for misappropriating government funds, the affidavit states.
Asking the court to dismiss the Bombay Dyeing petition, the state government has said, “The petitioners have not approached the court with clean hands and as such having not done equity, cannot claim equitable reliefs from this court.”