Guj HC notice to govt on contentious Varsha Flats sales

Gujarat High Court on Monday issued a notice to the state government in response to a petition seeking quashing of an FIR registered against 13 people for allegedly violating provisions under Disturbed Area Act. (AFP PHoto)

In the controversial case of flats being sold to Muslim residents in the Hindu-dominated Paldi area, the Gujarat High Court on Monday issued a notice to the state government in response to a petition seeking quashing of an FIR registered against 13 people for allegedly violating provisions under Disturbed Area Act.

The Disturbed Area Act prohibits Muslims from selling or transferring their properties to a Hindus or vice versa in localities notified as communally disturbed area.

The dispute, that has over six litigation in courts, is centred around the residential apartment "Varsha Flats" in Paldi area registered in the name of "Jankalyan Cooperative Housing Society, 1969.

At that time, it had developed four towers of a three-storied building with each consisting of six flats, totalling 24 flats, which were occupied by Hindus. By 1995, the flats were sold to Muslims amid rising polarisation in the aftermath of frequent riots.

According to case records, in 2014 the society, that has only Muslim residents now, entered into construction and development contract with RN Builders. It says that after redevelopment, a total of 56 flats were constructed, out of which, 24 were allotted to existing members while 32 were sold to new individuals, all from the minority community. 

The records state that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) reportedly gave the title clearance certificate on July 25, 2016. By then, 56 members had become members of Jankalyan Cooperative Housing Society. Sources said that earlier, the Hindu owners had sold the flats on the basis of power of attorney and the sale deeds were prepared as recent as 2016. According to existing residents, the AMC never objected to these transfers.

"Not a single transferor or single transferee has any issue with respect to a fair price and free consent for sale transaction (as mandated by the act) and all members are satisfied with their transactions," the petitioners have stated.

In 2018, Hindu Jagaran Manch, a right-wing organisation, held a protest against sale deeds and demanded to cancel all the transactions. Banners emerged outside the apartment claiming, "Save Paldi from turning into Juhapura." Juhapura is the state's biggest Muslim ghetto. The protesters termed these transactions as "Land Jihad."

Following the protests, the Ahmedabad district collector issued a notice to the builder and the society members and initiated inquiry. The residents challenged these notices in the high court which stayed the inquiry. While the matter was sub judice, the deputy collector passed an order cancelling 13 sale deeds. Following fresh litigation, the court stayed the implementation of the deputy collector's order.

The residents and the collector office have been fighting legal battle since then and in the meanwhile, following the order of the deputy collector, 13 members, builders and chairman of the society were booked last week for violating provisions of disturbed area act.

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