Continue drive against illegal shrines on roads, footpaths: HC to civic authorities

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Sep 2018 11:46:32


Staff Reporter,

Asks Joint CP, Municipal Commissioner, NIT Chairman to  oversee the drive

Directs them to take action against attempt to re-construct demolished shrines; create a functional helpline where citizens can lodge complaints; file compliance report after every 3 months

Maintaining its tough line against illegal religious structures on public roads and footpaths, Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, on Friday, directed Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) and Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) to continue its ongoing drive against all unauthorised religious structures and all unauthorised structures standing on the footpath, public streets.

The High Court also constituted a three-member committee consisting of Municipal Commissioner, NIT Chairman and Joint Commissioner of Police to co-ordinate the action and directed respondents to file compliance report in three months. NMC and NIT, in their separate affidavits, submitted that illegal shrines, as per their original survey, had been removed and it was an ongoing process. They also submitted that all photographs of illegal shrines untouched so far published in newspapers were scrutinised and action was immediately taken.

A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Rohit Deo while expressing satisfaction over the compliance of earlier orders, directed the police authorities to provide sufficient bandobast to demolition squads. Since the earlier faulty and legally untenable list of unauthorised structures has been scrapped, the High Court asked the NMC and NIT to act against illegal shrines on roads, footpaths as per Supreme Court order dated September 29, 2009 and as per their order dated September 19.

The High Court reiterated that no protection, whatsoever, could be provided to road-side shrines and even other structures, whether old or new, posing obstruction to smooth flow of traffic while indicating that structures on roads, footpath belonging to any faith not touched so far, should not be spared from demolition drive.  The High Court also directed the NMC to create a functional helpline with whatsApp facility so that citizens can send information or photos about illegal shrines and action after due verification can be taken.

NIT claimed that out of 87 shrines within its jurisdiction, 81 were removed, four were constructed before May 1, 1960 and two were on private land. The NMC claimed that it had removed all such structures but indicated that there could be more such structures not located or included in the faulty list which was scrapped by the High Court last week.

During its landmark 55-page order, the High Court had scrapped the “faulty and legally untenable” list of so called unauthorised religious structures prepared by NMC, giving a sigh of relief to citizens anxious about fate of places of worship and religious structures on open spaces, public utility plots within layouts and even on private lands.

Citizens should not be made to suffer for folly of NMC, the High Court had stated while ordering de-novo process spelling out time-line to complete the entire exercise. The High Court had pulled up the NMC for preparing defective and legally questionable list ignoring a Government Resolution dated May 5, 2011 which itself was issued to comply with Supreme Court order dated September 29, 2009. Entire demolition drive and demolition notices issued by civic agencies were based on the basis of this completely illegal, unconstitutional and legally questionable list leading to massive public outroar and friction between people and administration right during the festive season.

Adv Firdos Mirza (original petitioner) Adv Anil Kilor, Adv Anand Parchure, Adv Akash Moon and others appeared for other petitioner applicants. GP Sumant Deopujari (State), Senior Counsel C S Kaptan and Adv Sudhir Puranik (NMC), Senior Counsel S K Mishra and Adv Kaustubh Deogade (NIT) represented respondents.