MAINTAINING THAT the Girgaum Chowpatty beach must not be “damaged” by holding functions and rallies, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said the Union government’s ‘Make In India’ function held at the beach in 2016, which had to be abandoned after a fire gutted the stage, had led to the “destruction of a part of the beach”.
A Division Bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice R I Chagla was hearing a petition filed by Adarsh Chowpatty Pragati Mandal, an organisation of members who put up stalls at Girgaum Chowpatty, in 2000. They had sought directions to the BMC to renew their licenses. During a hearing in 2001, the court had constituted a high-power committee to review the general cleanliness and beautification of Girgaum Chowpatty.
The ‘Make in India’ function held in February 2016 at the beach had to be abandoned after a huge fire gutted the stage, the bench noted. “It caused considerable destruction to a portion of the beach,” the judges said.
“Beaches are an essential part of the environment. If the said beach is polluted, it will violate the fundamental right of the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India… of right to live in a pollution-free environment. There are a few open spaces left in the city where the common man can breathe fresh air,” the court said, adding that the beach is “a major tourist attraction in Mumbai” and so, it is a fundamental duty of every residents to protect it.
In February, the Maharashtra government had filed a report in the court confirming that the beach was facing the problem of soil erosion. Following this, the court had reserved the matter for judgment.
“The beach has national importance as it is said that Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was cremated here. He made his sacrifice for the cause of freedom. His statue stands tall on the said beach, which inspires younger generation. Therefore, it is all the more necessary that the sanctity of the beach is maintained by keeping it clean and free from pollution. It cannot be damaged by holding functions and rallies,” the court said.
The court in its interim order said that only three functions would be permitted on an designated area of 300×15 sq ft at the beach. A monitoring committee set up on the directions of the court had proposed that residents would be permitted to use the part of the beach as an access with or without vehicle for immersion of Ganesh, Durga and ancillary idols and other eco-friendly decorative materials. While Ganesh immersion will be permitted between Ganesh Chaturthi and Anant Chaturdashi, Adarsh Ram Leela Samiti will be permitted to perform Ramleela and Krishna Leela at the beach. Christmas could be celebrated for a day on the designated area.
The court maintained that the “state government shall ensure that entire area of Choti Chowpatty is cleared by the end of June 2018”. It asked the city collector to ensure that no construction or storage of any equipment is permitted at the beach. Also, no kabutarkhana should be located on the beach. The court said that the city collector shall ensure that all encroachment behind Birla Kreeda Kendra is removed.