The Bombay High Court Friday told the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that it appeared to be espousing the cause of festival organisers and pandals and asked the civic body which category of citizens would suffer from the implementation of its earlier orders preventing erection of pandals that obstruct traffic and pedestrian movements.
The HC rejected the BMC’s application seeking modification of its orders pertaining to enforcing noise pollution and other rules while granting permission for erection of pandals. Justices A S Oka and Revati Mohite Dere were hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Dr Mahesh Bedekar, who runs a hospital in Thane.
Arguing that since Ganesh Chaturthi was to begin from September 17, the BMC’s application had said there was paucity of time and it was therefore “necessary to give permission for erection of the mandaps to the organisations on the basis of the last year’s permission”. It further stated that if permissions were not granted immediately, there would be “great hardships and inconvenience to the mandals as well as organisations which will result into great hardship to the community at large”. The BMC had contended that the sentiment of the people would be hurt.
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The HC said the BMC was suggesting that its previous orders would cause hardship to people. “Our orders, however, simply state that the discretionary powers granted to municipal commissioners for erection of pandals shall not be exercised if it causes hindrance to traffic and pedestrians. We fail to understand which category of citizens will suffer if our orders are implemented,” said the HC.
The BMC application had also stated that “Ganesh Chaturthi is being celebrated traditionally from the time of Bal Gangadhar Tilak”.
“We hope and trust that BMC is not trying to say that even during his time (Bal Gangadhar Tilak) Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated by obstructing roads and footpaths,” said the bench, further adding that they did not want the name of Bal Gangadhar Tilak to be maligned.
In March, a division bench of Justices A S Oka and A S Gadkari had pointed out that illegal platforms raised during festivals such as Ganesh Utsav, Navratri and Dahi Handi should not be constructed in localities having a large population and heavy traffic, or if these locations were near public transport stands, hospitals and educational institutions, especially if these hindered traffic. The court Friday said again permission for pandals could be granted near schools, hospitals, taxi stands etc as long as it did not lead to disruption of traffic and movement of pedestrians.
The application by the BMC stated that in 2014, it had allowed 133 idol makers and 1,188 Ganesh pandals on municipal roads and footpaths maintained by the civic body, and had also granted permission 304 applications seeking to set up pandals near railway stations, public bus stands, hospitals, etc.
Pointing out that the BMC had not come out with a new policy for 2015 and was following the policy it had formulated in 2014, the HC said the BMC had “misread their orders”.
“Your submissions are based on misreading of orders. In our orders we have said that the municipal commissioners will have to be careful, and will grant permission if satisfied that such permission for erection of pandals will not lead to disruption of traffic. This application proceeds on the wrong premise that it prevents the commissioner from granting permission,” said the court.
The BMC informed the court that it had granted 69 permissions for Ganesh Chaturthi, out of which 14 were for setting up of pandals for celebrations and the remaining 55 were to idol makers for setting up of booths, which would be dismantled once the idols are distributed. “We grant permission by way of indulgence for protecting structures up to June 24 (when the interim orders were passed),” the bench further added. The BMC has been asked to display permission particulars on all pandals besides enforcing noise pollution rules.