Media is considered one of the four pillars of democracy and it voices the concern of people on many issues. But the situation changes when this pillar of democracy forgets its responsibility and tries to get an undue advantage.
Sprouts Special Investigation Team unearths how The Times of India (TOI) group is using the land given to it in Mumbai for its iconic office free of cost, thanks to the special treatment and lethargy by Bombay Port Trust (BPT) officials.
As Bombay Port Trust (BPT) is a government organization, its Estate Officer has some rights of legal action as per the special Public Premises Eviction Act to remove those living on their land illegally.
Accordingly, as soon as the Trust began its action, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL) submitted a petition to the Mumbai High Court on August 6, 2015.
While presenting its side in the court, the BCCL claimed that as the land has been given before independence i.e. before 1947, the company is a protected tenant and the Public Premises Eviction Act does not apply to it.
As the company is a protected tenant the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) should have approached the Small Causes Court in the matter, the BCCL added in its plea. As the BPT did not oppose the BCCL petition, the Bombay High Court issued a stay order which mentioned that the company should be allowed to continue to use the land.
The situation is as it has been for the last eight years and the BPT is not doing anything to change it.
Another fact is that as per the Maharashtra Rent Control Act 1999, there is a rule which mentions that the office of a company that has more than Rs one crore capital should be evicted immediately.
As per the same rule, hundreds of nationalized banks and companies had to vacate the lands they were using as protected tenants.
The capital of the Times of India (TOI) group is more than Rs 284 crores. Therefore, if the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) had agreed to the plea made by the Times of India (TOI) group in the Mumbai High Court and approached the Small Causes Court, the verdict in the case would have been delivered in 4-5 months and the Times of India (TOI) group would have to vacate the land.
However, it did not happen as the matter has not been taken seriously by the Bombay Port Trust (BPT).
As the capital of the Times of India (TOI) group is more than Rs 284 crores, the land could have been vacated in the year 2000 itself. In fact, the action began in 2015. Later, eight years were wasted. In the last 23 years, Bombay Port Trust (BPT) lost revenue worth crores and no one knows how many more years the Times of India (TOI) group will use the land free of cost.
Bombay Port Trust (BPT) officials are doing similar mischief regarding lands used by other big companies also. Many such lands whose lease term has ended have not been taken into custody by the Bombay Port Trust (BPT).
It’s clear that the government has suffered losses worth thousands of crores and will continue to suffer the same in the future also.
Advocate Yogesh Deshpande has lodged a complaint with the Central Vigilance Commission of India in the matter however he has not received any reply in this regard yet.
The real question is if the newspaper group is benefiting from this mischief whether it will ever unearth it. Due to the inaction by Bombay Port Trust (BPT) officials, the Central government has incurred losses worth crores in the last 22 years and it will continue so for years to come. BPT Chairman Rajiv Jalota and Times of India Chairman Sameer Jain were not available for comment.
● The Times of India (TOI) is one of the leading English newspapers in India. It was published in 1838 for the first time. The group which started an English newspaper at the beginning has publications in various languages such as Hindi and Marathi now. At present, its digital edition is also published. It is owned by Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL). In fact, the Jain family is the owner of it.
● The TOI group favours the rulers always. It was in favour of the Britishers during the pre-independence era. As a result, the British government gave it many facilities. The British rulers gave the company a sprawling space in South Mumbai at the very cheapest rate. Even after the end of the lease term, the company has custody of the land. At present, Bombay Port Trust (BPT) has the right to take custody of the land because the lease term of the land worth crores has ended.