Updated: August 28, 2021 2:56:04 am
The Gujarat High Court on Friday ordered the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and the office bearers of the Samarpan Housing Society to “immediately” reopen a “controversial” gate that opens into a minority-dominated area, which had been barricaded since August 2020 to prevent “communal, law and order, and other issues”.
The order comes over a month after the VMC had submitted in court that it would reopen the gate, which also blocked access to 9 metres of a public road.
On Friday, Hasit Dave, the counsel for the Samarpan Housing Society, told the court that in a meeting held the previous day, the parties had agreed to reopen the gate but had “not decided” on a day.
To this Justice Sangeeta Vishen remarked, “The day the court passes the order is an auspicious day. That is today,” turning down the request of the counsel to grant “a few more” days to reopen the gate.
The court also rejected the Dave’s request to direct the Vadodara city police to deploy its personnel to man the gates “for some time as the society has been maintaining the garden” and other amenities. Justice Vishen said, “Please don’t make submissions saying that by maintaining the garden or other amenities you are obliging anyone. The stop-gap arrangement should be effected from today itself.”
On the issue of deployment of police personnel at the gate, the court said, “Are the residents of the society headstrong persons? Are the petitioners in the case headstrong persons? Then why are you interpreting it as a threat for which you need police. If you have decided to come to an amicable solution, then why are you unnecessarily bringing these apprehensions… there is no need to create a ghost entity (by deploying police)… ultimately the security guard (appointed by the society) will have to do his duty… sufficient indulgence has been given to the society… The gate has to be opened today… it will be in the right earnest and the court will appreciate your gesture.”
Dave then pleaded with the court to pass an order to prevent any other person, apart from the members of the society and their visitors, from using the road. Rejecting the same, Justice Vishen said, “The gate has to be maintained by them (society)… let them take care that no one else uses the road… why should a court pass an order to say it should not be used as a throughfare?… There is no need to assume that there will be a problem… There is no problem so why create an apprehension?”
In the order delivered thereafter, the court, based on the unanimous decision taken by the parties in the case — as communicated by all three advocates representing the parties — laid down that the road will be used by the members of the Samarpan Society and visitors visiting them.
VMC’s advocate Maulik Nanavati also submitted the minutes of the meeting held in the society on Thursday. The court, in its order said, “It was agreed between Petitioner and the private respondents on the other to convene a meeting so as to find a solution as regards to the gate installed by the society…. the meeting was convened by the responding corporation, where all the petitioners, the residents of the society, in presence of the Assistant Commissioner of Police, have unanimously decided that the gate will be retained at the location and will be opened for use by the members of the society or relatives and other persons visiting the members of the society. The society will maintain a guard for opening and closing the gate. Under the circumstances, the gate will be opened for members and persons visiting the members of the society from today itself. The parties have submitted the minutes of the meeting held on August 26 and the parties shall abide by the same.”
Samarpan Housing Society, located on the Vasna-Tandalja Road, falls under the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, which lays down provisions to arrest “distress sale” in neighbourhoods dominated by a particular community by making it mandatory for the sale to be cleared by the District Collector.
The decision to barricade the society gate in question was taken in August 2020 after several residents objected to the transfer of a plot of land between a Parsi seller and a Muslim buyer. The land transfer was in accordance with the law and upheld by the High Court, which also had permitted its new owner, Firoz Patel, to commence construction on the plot.
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