The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday earmarked the funds collected by the court’s registry from shrine and trusts, who had objected to a court order seeking demolition of illegal shrines, towards the improvement of facilities at government-run shelter homes for women and children in Vidarbha.
The order comes in the backdrop of incidents of rape and abuse being reported from shelter homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier, a bench of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice Zaka Haq had directed such trusts to pay Rs 50,000 each as bona fide after they had objected to the demolition of illegal shrines.
On Friday, the bench constituted a committee to supervise and manage the utilisation of the funds for the purpose of improving facilities at shelter homes in Vidarbha. The committee includes government pleader Sumant Deopujari, High Court Bar Association vice-president Gauri Venkatraman and assistant government pleader Kalyani Deshpande.
So far, 967 trusts have objected to the demolition drive undertaken by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation and the Nagpur Improvement Trust in June. The court’s direction was based on a 2013 Supreme Court order to demolish all illegally constructed shrines across the country. The Supreme Court had then directed the respective HCs to monitor the implementation of its order.
Two petitioners from Nagpur, Gajanan Zade and Manohar Khorgade, who had filed a PIL in 2006 against such structures, had sought to revive their petition — rendered disposed following the SC directive — in January this year, arguing that their grievance wasn’t settled. The High Court had given its order on their plea in June.
It has been learnt that about 250 trusts have objected to the demolition drive and deposited the bona fide amount. The last date to do so was August 9. The bench on Friday directed the remaining trusts to deposit Rs 60,000 by August 21. It will hear the case again on August 23.
Civic authorities have so far brought down about 300 of the 1,500-odd structures listed for demolition.
The issue had raised a lot of political heat with BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal representatives meeting Union Minister and Nagpur MLA Nitin Gadkari to intervene. Gadkari went on to write to the civic authorities to stop the drive, saying that as the MP, he was responsible for the law and order situation.
Leaders of other religious communities had also raised objections and formed a joint action committee to oppose the demolitions.
Several shrine trusts and political leaders have argued that while it is fine to raze the structures causing hindrance to traffic or inconvenience to common public, the structures on public utility land inside the city should be spared. The civic authorities, however, submitted before the court on Friday that it is continuing with the drive.