Bombay HC says no to ‘Maharashtra Night’ at Chowpatty

Rejecting the government’s proposal, the court said permission to an event of this scale and nature would set a precedent

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Published:January 29, 2016 3:48 am

THE BOMBAY High Court has refused permission to the state government to host a mega event at Girgaum Chowpatty as part of the Make in India Week next month to showcase Maharashtra as an investment destination.

The decision is being seen as a setback to the government that had sought 200,000 square feet of space to set up a stage, green rooms, music system and washrooms for this event planned on the first day of the weeklong programme. The court rejected it Thursday outright, citing separate guidelines. Advocate General Shrihari Aney, who appeared for the state, argued that in the past too exceptions had been made and permission had been granted to host the golden jubilee celebrations of Maharashtra at the same grounds. Aney pleaded the state’s case saying despite guidelines, political gatherings and social meetings had taken place twice before on the Girgaum Chowpatty beach front.

Rejecting the government’s proposal, the court said permission to an event of this scale and nature would set a precedent.

Justice A S Oka and Justice C V Bhadang said this event could not be related to the Golden Jubilee celebrations, which was a special occasion. Besides, the state’s application did not seek a modification of the guidelines, which had been framed with the consent of the state. Aney, while making a case for the government, said if a comparison was to be made with the Golden Jubilee celebrations, the Make in India event in Mumbai would see 57 dignitaries and prime ministers of three other countries, making it more important.

The Make In India Week is scheduled to be held from February 13 to 18, with the state government pitching it as a “week that will spark a renewed sense of pride in India’s manufacturing”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the programme on the first day. A series of events has been planned across Mumbai to showcase the manufacturing sector and the state’s cultural and social history.

“The presence of foreign dignitaries and prime ministers of other nations does not make a case for relating this function at par with the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Maharashtra,” said the court, adding that so long as earlier orders of the court continued to hold, it would have to be implemented. The court said granting permission would defeat earlier orders of the court on this issue.

“The state was consenting party and cannot seek to hold function which will occupy large area of the beach,” the court pointed out.

Permission had been sought to provide space at Chowpatty for the event for four hours. On February 14, the government was supposed to host ‘Maharashtra Night’ at Girgaum Chowpatty.

A committee for monitoring activities on the beach had told the state to approach the HC. The court-appointed committee had come up with guidelines to regulate activities on Chowpatty, which were accepted by a division bench. The guidelines allow certain functions such as during Ramlila and immersion of Durga and Ganpati idols, but prohibit activities like political meetings and other gatherings. The court also pointed out that Chowpatty was to remain open to the public at all times according to earlier orders.

The court further questioned as to why it was necessary to organise the function on the beach. The AG replied that this was necessary to showcase Maharashtra as an investment destination, further stating that the public would be part of such a celebration. “The entire city will participate in the cultural performances. The skyline of Marine Drive is attractive to look at,” said Aney.

“The guidelines are there to preserve the quality of the area but not to stop celebrations, otherwise Ganpati immersion would not have been allowed,” said the AG, adding that the state would look at other options in case the court struck down their application.

The court, however, maintained that activities such as immersion had been allowed so that they could be phased out over time.

Government officials, meanwhile, said they were scouting for an alternative venue to hold the function.