February 2, 2021 10:31:09 pm
The Gujarat High Court Tuesday issued notice to Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and the police authorities to respond to the contentions raised against a gate that has been kept closed on the pretext of law-and-order situation for several months at Samarpan Housing Service Cooperative Society in Tandalja area of Vadodara. The notice, issued by the court of Justice Bhargav Karia, has been kept returnable for March 5.
Since August 2020, a welded iron grille has been blocking the society’s gate, which opens to a nine-metre town planning scheme-approved public road passing through an area dominated by minority communities. The decision to close the gate was taken after several residents objected to the transfer of a plot of land on the society premises between a Parsi and a Muslim.
The Samarpan 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, where all property sale and transfer have to be cleared by the designated government authority.
The land transfer was in accordance with the law and upheld by the Gujarat High Court, which also had permitted its new owner, Firoz Patel, to commence construction on the plot.
Eight residents of the society, including Patel, have now challenged the VMC’s inaction in removing the obstruction which falls under its responsibilities and jurisdiction. They have also challenged the VMC’s move of “unnecessarily” seeking the opinion from the city police commissioner with respect to the removal of the obstruction.
Following a rap from the high court in November last year, which directed the municipal commissioner to consider representations of the parties aggrieved by the gate closure in the society within a period of two months, the VMC in December had sought opinions from the police authorities of the city on whether the gate should remain closed or be opened up.
The deputy police commissioner on January 5 had then opined that “the removal of encroachment/ obstruction would lead to communal law and order situation between majority (Hindus) and minority (Muslims) community and, therefore, it is not feasible to remove the same”. The petitioners have challenged the VMC’s decision to seek the police authorities’ opinion.
The petitioners have submitted that since the obstruction was on the TP Road, VMC should exercise its power under existing provisions of the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, as firstly, such an obstruction should not have been erected and, secondly, given the illegality of such an encroachment, it should have immediately been removed as per existing provisions of GPMC Act as well as the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976.
“Even after almost five months since the said road was illegally closed down and the 9-metre TP Road… of Town Planning Scheme… was illegally encroached, no action has been taken by any of the respondent authorities to remove the same. Closure of the public road (has) caused huge inconvenience to all the members of the Samarpan Society, who were using the said road to reach their respective homes as well as the commuters who were using the said road for daily travelling,” the petitioners have submitted through their advocate Muhammad Isa Hakim.
The petitioners have made repeated representations and some of them were present before the Land and Property Department authorities of VMC for a hearing on January 8. In their petition, they stated, “Seeing the tenor and content of the letter by the respondent No 4 (the DyCP) dated 05/01/2021, the petitioners are certain that the respondent No 1 (VMC through its land and revenue department) will take decision against the petitioners and purely on communal ground and not remove the obstruction/encroachment of the gate on the TP Road.” The petitioners have sought that the letter from the DyCP addressed to the VMC on the necessity of the obstruction, be quashed and set aside.
“It is deeply unfortunate that the said closure of a public road on communal grounds is being continued for more than 5 months without any action on part of respondent authorities. The same is an assault on the secular values of the Constitution and, therefore, appropriate directions are required to be issued in order to correct the same,” states the petition.
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