July 31, 2021 9:02:39 pm
The Gujarat High Court on Saturday said that the Vadodara Municipal Corporation was “playing to the gallery” in its changing stance on opening the Samarpan Society’s gate which was closed citing “communal law and order” reasons.
More than a week after the civic body submitted before the HC that it will reopen the gate, which opens to a nine-metre town planning scheme-approved public road passing through an area dominated by minority communities, it remains to be opened.
While the VMC on July 30 passed an order directing that all obstruction to the town planning scheme-approved public access road be removed, several members of the housing society which opens to the public access road have moved the High Court opposing the VMC’s move.
Since August 2020, a welded iron grille has been blocking the Samarpan Society’s gate. 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 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.
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 deputy police commissioner on January 5 had opined that “the removal of encroachment/ obstruction would lead to communal law and order situation between the majority (Hindus) and minority (Muslims) community and, therefore, it is not feasible to remove the same”.
Eight residents of the society, including Patel, challenged the VMC’s inaction in removing the obstruction which falls under its responsibilities and jurisdiction. They also challenged the VMC’s move of “unnecessarily” seeking the opinion from the city police commissioner with respect to the removal of the obstruction.
However, the society’s chairperson Manish Malhotra, through his lawyer Hasit Dave, is now opposing the move to open the gate on grounds that “antisocial elements have come and created riots” and that opening of the gate “will create a law and order problem” on account of the area being a “disturbed area”.
The court of Justice Sangeeta Vishen, which is hearing the matter, remarked on Saturday that VMC is “playing to the gallery” with its changing stance on opening of the gate and instead of taking action in accordance to law, it is “waiting for the court” to pass an order.
In an affidavit by VMC dated July 30, the civic body has submitted that it sent a notice in October last year to the society members to remove the gate, obstructing access to the public access road but subsequently on July 26, members of the society submitted a representation seeking that they be given audience on why the obstruction must continue.
“Accordingly, the members of the society were heard on 29.07.2021. They raised several objections, including but not limited to error being committed in declaring an internal road of the society to be a public road and proposal for variation having been made by the Municipal Corporation itself to the State Government…after granting reasonable opportunity of hearing to the members of the society and after considering their oral submissions as well as the documentary material produced by them, an order has been passed rejecting the objections,” VMC in its affidavit submitted.
Meanwhile, the society members’ who are opposing the reopening of access to the public road have sought that they be permitted to amend their petition now so as to challenge the VMC’s July 30 order directing for removal of the obstruction. The matter is expected to be heard further on Tuesday, that is August 3.
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