While hearing a matter in which a social organisation had objected to the removing or shifting of a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar from a park in Vikhroli (East), the Bombay High Court recently observed that the statue had been installed by the organisation for its “personal or political gain” and it was “highly objectionable” for the appellant to use the name of the leader.
The court has asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to remove the statue immediately and take care of it. “If it is not possible for it, then the corporation may take care of the statue after shifting it,” the court said.
Justice Mridula Bhatkar was hearing an appeal filed by an organisation named Siddharth Vikas Mandal. It had filed the appeal against a trial court order of November 11, 2017 on shifting the statue from the park.
The BMC had issued an order in April 2017 to the organisation to remove the unauthorised structure that included a shed, located in the R G Bhandare playground on Station Road, Tagore Nagar, Vikhroli (East). The structure was subsequently removed. Thereafter, in June 2017, the superintendent of gardens in S Ward issued another notice to the plaintiff to produce documents and stop any new construction.
In the same month, when the civic body tried to remove the construction, the organisation stopped the action by gathering people. Another notice was issued to produce documents and permission for installation of the statue.
In August and September 2017, the BMC along with police tried to take action but were stalled by agitations and protests by the public who gathered near the statue.
While hearing the appeal mainly relating to the removal of the statue, Justice Bhatkar observed, “Apparently, the appellant has installed the statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar with an ulterior motive to save its structure. This act of the appellant is highly objectionable as the name and fame of the great national leader, who is the framer of the Constitution, cannot be abused by installing the statue for its personal or political gain.”
The advocate for the organisation had argued that the organisation was helping people of the locality in various ways. He said the structure was 15 to 16 years old and that the statue had been installed at that time. He said removing it “would hurt the feelings of people in the vicinity”.
He had further submitted that the appellant has filed an application for regularisation of the structure and the statue, and the same may be considered by the municipal corporation and the structure and statue be protected until then.
Meanwhile, appearing for the BMC, senior counsel Anil Sakhare said no permission had been sought before installing the statue.
He relied on the Government Resolution dated May 2, 2016 issued by the state government about a policy on giving permission for installation of statues of national leaders. He submitted that the corporation was the owner of the garden and neither the structure nor the statue had been installed until three to four months back.
The government had issued the policy following directions from the Supreme Court. “These principles are to be strictly followed as such issue is proved to be very sensitive and the feelings of the people towards these great persons can be taken care of and respected, so also the prestige and dignity of the statues of the national leaders and great persons can be maintained. Thus, the social provocation or instigation on these issues can be avoided by strict observance of the guiding principles so that law and order can be maintained,” said Justice Bhatkar.
She further said the appellant has failed to produce any permission of the statue committee as required under the policy of the government while directing the civic body to remove the statue from the premises.