The Bombay High Court on Monday said that the Nashik Municipal Corporation is free to take action against unauthorised religious structures erected after September 2009, but only after hearing the affected parties.
Petitioners Vinod Thorat and Kailas Dinkar Deshmukh, residents of Nashik, approached the high court challenging the civic body’s decision to issue notices of demolition to 530 unauthorised religious structures in August this year. The petition said that the corporation had not followed the due procedure laid down in the Government Resolution (GR) and failed to give opportunity to the stakeholders concerned.
Following directions from the Supreme Court, the state government had came out with the policy to regularise unauthorised religious shrines by issuing GR. According to the resolution, a committee has been constituted to finalise the list of unauthorised religious structures within a period of three months from the date of issuance of the said GR. The unauthorized constructions carried out after September 29, 2009 are to be demolished as per Supreme Court direction.
While the petitioner’s lawyer argued that no show cause notice or due opportunity of hearing were given to the stake holders affected by the action of demolition, the corporation in its defence told the court that they had prepared and published separate lists of religious structures constructed before and after September 29, 2009 on the website of the Nashik Municipal Corporation and Nashik Police. A press release was also published in a newspaper stating that information is available on the website.
A division bench of Justices B R Gavai and M S Karnik said, “We have therefore come to the conclusion that though the Corporation has taken a unilateral decision to the effect that these structures are erected after 29/9/2009, it has been done so without offering an opportunity of countering the said claim and proving that the said structures were erected prior to 29/9/2009 and therefore the decision of the Corporation is in violation of mandatory procedure prescribed in the GR dated May 5, 2011.”
The bench further said, “Undoubtedly, in respect of the structures which are erected after September 29, 2009, the corporation is free to take action in accordance with the GR. However, before taking such action, the corporation will have to abide by the procedure as laid down in the GR.”