The Bombay High Court on Monday posted hearing after a month on a PIL by Christian residents of Mumbra and Kausa, who seek the return of land reserved as burial ground for various communities but later de-reserved for Thane MLA Pratap Sarnaik’s firm to construct highrises.
According to the PIL, the land allotted to the community in lieu of the de-reservation is situated next to the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC)’s sewage holding tanks and therefore not fit for burial. The PIL states that when graves were dug, sewage water seeped into them. The PIL said there is lack of burial space in Thane for Christians who number more than three lakh in the city.
The court said the PIL will be clubbed with another PIL pertaining to burial grounds in Bandra (West).
A division bench of Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Nitin R Borkar was hearing the plea by social activist Melwyn Fernandes, seeking directions to authorities to open all reserved plots of land that have been earmarked as Christian cemeteries under the Development Plan in Thane.
Fernandes said the petitioner and parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy Church, Thane, went to find out the status of the plot at Bhayandar Pada near GB road near the proposed Metro station, and they found that the plot was de-reserved by Ovala-Majiwada constituency MLA Pratap Sarnaik, who is in Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s faction, for his construction firm Vihang Group of Companies so that it could build multi-storey buildings.
The plea said the TMC town planning department had informed them that plots were reserved for Sayunkta Smashanbhumi and Smruti Udyan as per a letter dated February 12, 2016, which is referred to as the ‘proposed modification’. After such a proposed modification, the BMC was to provide land to different communities totalling 37,000 square metres.
The petitioner said the project by Vihang Group is in the process for commencement and the court shall pass orders against the same. He said the population of Christians has considerably increased since the 2011 census, so more burial grounds are needed in the region.
Earlier, the court had granted liberty to the petitioner to add a construction company as the party with which the petitioner complied. On Monday, the bench asked the petitioner to amend the plea seeking specific reliefs against a company owned by Sarnaik for allegedly usurping land for private construction and posted further hearing to November 14.