The Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government to de-seal forthwith the Cambata building in south Mumbai which houses the Eros theatre while observing that the sealing order was “arbitrary and issued without proper application of mind”.
The iconic building, located opposite Churchgate railway station, was sealed yesterday following an order of Mumbai city Collector Ashwini Joshi.
The action comes against Cambata Aviation (owner of the building) for non-payment of pending dues of over Rs four crore of their employees since February 2015.
A division bench of justices S M Kemkar and P D Naik was hearing two petitions – one filed by S C Cambata Trust and the other filed by Eros Theatres – challenging the sealing order.
The trust, in its petition, claimed that Cambata Aviation does not own any property in the said building and hence, the sealing of it and other offices housed there is illegal and causes unnecessary sufferings to the tenants who have nothing to do with the pending dues.
Eros in its petition claimed that it was just a tenant in the building and that it has been paying rent on a timely basis to the building owners and that by sealing the theatre, the Collector has caused loss to Eros.
The high court, after hearing the brief arguments, observed that the Collector’s order was passed without following due process of law.
“Prima facie the order of sealing is arbitrary and there seems to be non-application of mind. Due procedure has not been followed. We direct the concerned authority to de-seal the entire building and all offices located in it forthwith,” the court ordered.
The court also took note of Eros’s argument that when the authority had gone to seal the building yesterday, a movie was being screened which was stopped mid-way and people were forcibly removed from the theatre.
“Is this how the procedure is? Tomorrow if you (authority) have to seal a restaurant, will you just go there and ask people to stop eating and leave the place immediately,” Justice Kemkar said.
The court has now posted the petitions for further hearing after four weeks.
Around 1,200 Cambata employees had moved the city labour court against the management.
The labour court had recently directed the city Collector to pass an order to seal and lock the premises.