The Bombay High Court on Wednesday gave till December 2016 to the Maharashtra government to remove, shift or relocate illegal shrines in the state in keeping with its policy notified in a government resolution (GR). A division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka was hearing a batch of PILs urging the authorities to remove illegal shrines in Maharashtra.
It said it would pass an order on October 1 on the PILs and posted the matter for directions on that day. The judges had observed on Tuesday that there was complete failure on the part of the Maharashtra government in demolition of illegal shrines across the state in keeping with its policy stated in a GR last year.
“There has been complete failure on the part of the state government to act against illegal shrines. We find that the government has not acted enough as it should have done in keeping with its policy,” the bench had observed. The government filed an affidavit, saying that 871 unauthorised constructions existed in the state after September 29, 2009. Of these, 225 had been demolished and the remaining still existed.
As per the affidavit, total illegal religious structures which existed before the cut off date of September 29, 2009 were 49,849. Of these, 34,276 had been regularised leaving behind 11,942. Of the remaining, 421 were demolished and 69 had been shifted. The rest still exist.
The judges also asked the state government to strictly follow its commitment of demolishing illegal shrines which had come up after 2009 and warned that any laxity on its part would be viewed seriously. Government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani had assured the court that the Maharashtra government was committed to demolition of illegal shrines or their regularisation across the state and had sought three months time to do so.
In January this year, the government pleader had assured the high court that the administration would pull down such illegal shrines by May 2016. In November 2015, the high court had also passed an order asking the state government to demolish illegal shrines in Maharashtra within six months.
The high court had in March 2015 directed the civic authorities to demolish all the illegal shrines that had come up in Maharashtra post 2009. Following a Supreme Court order, the state had issued a government resolution in 2011, prescribing action regarding unauthorised religious structures in terms of regularisation, relocation or removal. In November 2015, it came up with another GR declaring action against illegal shrines.