Encroachers on Dr Ambedkar's land vacated after 47 years
He was a Bharat Ratna awardee, a former union law minister and has the distinction of drafting the Constitution of the largest democracy in the world.Yet it took 47 years for the state government to execute a court decree in favour of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, against illegal encroachment on his land by Pakistani refugees, largely due to the consistent efforts of his followers who fought the battle on his behalf for these many years till they finally won.
Talking to UNI, Advocate Srikant Gavare and Advocate Madhavrao Wagh said that it was nothing short of a 'war in court', to get the encroachers removed from the land purchased by Dr Ambedkar to construct a community hall for 'Bombay Scheduled Castes Improvement Trust', founded by him.
The decree on a writ petition filed by him was ordered by the court on October 14, 1955 in his favour to get the encroachers evicted, but it was numerous court cases, appeals and 47 years later that the land has finally been handed over to the trust.
Counsels for the Trust, Advocate Gavare and Advocate Wagh informed that Dr Ambedkar had founded the Trust in 1944 and had purchased a piece of land admeasuring 1940 sq m at Gokuldas Pasta Road in Dadar, central Mumbai at an estimated cost of Rs 35,000 odd. He planned to construct the building of the 'Bombay Scheduled Castes Improvement Trust' with community hall, and carry out activities for the poor and dalits.
The funds were raised through appeals to princes, the rich and dalits, to contribute their might for the benefit of Dalits.
After taking possession of the land, Dr Ambedkar had constructed the building on a part of the land and moved his own printing press 'Bharat Bhushan Printing press' into the premises to restart the weekly Janata. The building also housed activities of other institutions established by Dr Ambedkar, including his political party, Scheduled Castes Federation and Buddhist Society of India, while he planned to construct a community hall on the remaining land of the trust.
But, due to his appointment as Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee and law minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet, Dr Ambedkar was required to spend most of his time in Delhi and activities planned in Mumbai were unintentionally neglected.
However, in 1952, Dr Ambedkar resigned as law minister and returned to Mumbai to continue his planned activities and was surprised to find encroachment on the rest of the land by three refugees from Pakistan. He tried in vain to persuade these three occupants to vacate the land to enable him to start the construction of the community hall and later filed three suits in the small causes court in 1954 against the encroachers, engaging Mumbai's legal luminary Advocate B K Boman Behram on his behalf. He even appeared in the court for the case.
The suits were decreed on October 14, 1955 in favour of the trust. However, due to complicated procedure of law, the occupants and their sub-tenants filed 21 suits against the Trust claiming tenancy rights in the Bombay High court in 1969 which dismissed all the suits. The Trust through the court decree could only evict two of the three occupants and other sub-tenants from the premises. One Harbansingh Gupta continued running his hotel 'Gupta Punjabi Hotel' while his friend Acchiram Dholumal ran a business of cleaning bottles. They also took advantage of the amendments in the tenants law and continued their business, allowing other persons in the premises.
The war continued when one Gurpalsing Gandhi, manager of the Hotel took undue advantage of the 1972 amendment in the Bombay Rent Act and filed a declaratory suit in 1976 in small causes court and obtained an injunction against the Trust.
Advocate Gavvare and Advocate Wagh further said that the Trust filed a writ petition in 1997 in the Bombay High court for expedition of hearing on Gandhi's suit and the High Court ordered small causes court to dispose of the suit within six months, which was dismissed the suit in February 1998.
Gurpalsing Gandhi then filed an appeal which was also expedited and dismissed by the Appellate Bench of the Small causes court in 1999. Again Gandhi approached the Bombay High court with a fresh writ petition last year.
The hearing on his writ came up before the High court judge Justice R M Lodha who was about to dismiss the the writ petition, but Gandhi then agreed to withdraw his petition and requested a year's time to vacate the premises.
The court allowed him time till July 31, 2001. When the time expired Gandhi again filed an application requesting for another one year. However, the High Court rejected his application for further extension of time and Justice Daga, who heard the case directed Gandhi to vacate and hand over the premises to the trust before September 30, 2001. Accordingly, Gurpalsingh Gandhi and his associates finally handed over the premises to the trust on September 30 this year.