The Delhi High Court on Thursday pulled up the authorities over their failure to submit an action plan, along with a timeline, for maintenance and renovation of Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial at Rajghat. It also asked how a place of worship can be maintained in an “unhygienic” and “deplorable” manner. “It is a very shocking state of affairs that we will be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, and the Government of India is also planning a massive celebration, but we have an unrealistic timeline with regard to its renovation,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar observed.
Stating that October 2 is not too far off, the bench said, “You have not been able to decide upon an action plan for cleaning up and maintaining Rajghat, despite our direction in this regard… Should we stop access to that place till the work is complete?”
“This petition, which alleged that Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial was not being properly maintained, is pending before the court since 2016 and on our order the place was inspected and deficiency was pointed out,” the bench said.
“Though the place is being visited by VVIPs and dignitaries, including heads of states and national and international leaders, the authorities have failed to maintain it properly,” it observed.
It added, “We are not looking at a small bus shelter or a small shop. This is the samadhi of our father of the nation.”
The bench directed the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Rajghat Samadhi Committee, set up for its maintenance, preservation and administration, and other authorities concerned to take a step forward in this regard to show reverence to Gandhi.
The matter was listed for hearing in July. Petitioner Shyam Narayan Chouksey claimed that the memorial “was not being properly and cleanly maintained”, and despite being brought to the notice of the committee and MoUD, there has been no change in situation.
In the PIL, Chouksey has submitted photos of alleged deficiencies that he had come across during his visit to the monument in 2014 and then again in 2015 and 2016, when he claimed that the situation had worsened.