The Bombay High Court has asked the state government to explain how it had concluded that a property in Satara was where Dr B R Ambedkar lived in his early years, to declare it as a protected monument. The HC was hearing petitions, one of which challenges the claim of the state of Dr Ambedkar having resided in the property located in Sadar Bazar, Satara based on which it declared it as a protected monument. The petitioner, Laxman Aamne claims to be the owner of the property. “Our endeavour must be to see whether there is proper application of mind at the time of declaration in the official gazette dated 8 March 2007 declaring the property as a protected monument,” said Justice Manjula Chellur. According to Aamne’s petition, the property in question was declared as a protected monument by virtue of the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960.
He argued that though there was a declaration under this enactment which came to be published in official gazette on March 2007 indicating the property in question as a protected monument there was no material available with the authorities to conclude it was a protected monument.
There is non-application of mind to the material placed at the relevant time by the authorities. Hence, the property in question cannot be declared as ancient or protected monument, Aamne had said.
Subsequently, in continuation of the declaration of 2007, notifications under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 came to be issued which was challenged in another petition.
The court held that with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 coming into force and replacing the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the preliminary and final notification under the 1894 Act would also have to be considered under the new Act since non-compliance of certain conditions like payment of compensation, not taking possession, not making an award within a particular time, would lead to different consequences.
“If such a declaration is just and proper technically then the question of considering the benefits flowing out of 2013 Act would come into play,” said the court keeping the matter for final hearing on March 21.
The trust that intervened in the matter, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Smarak Samiti, meanwhile, had published a booklet that was the only material available with the government or the authority to conclude that the building in question was a protected monument on account of the fact that Ambedkar was presumed to have lived in this house between 1896 and 1904, Aamne pointed out.
According to Aamne, he has been residing in the property since 1970. In 2004, he wanted to develop the property and sought permission from the local municipal council. Meanwhile, some people from the Dalit community claimed that Ambedkar stayed in this house during his childhood.
They also had discussions with political leaders in 2005, which included RPI leaders. Aamne was eventually denied permission to develop the property. Meanwhile, it was declared as a protected monument.
He then wrote to the municipal council and other authorities to provide documentary evidence that Ambedkar had resided there. “But in a letter received, the council claimed to have no documentary evidence,” states the petition.
The headmaster of the school in Satara were Ambedkar studied also said the register did not contain his residential address, added the petition.