Last week,the Bombay High Court disposed of a petition that questioned the appointment of the sheriff of Mumbai. The petition had alleged that academician Dr Indu Shahani had been holding the post,the tenure of which is one-year, since 2008.
Shahanis counsel Satish Maneshinde,however,told the court that she had given up the post in December 2009 and if any records or websites reflect she continues to be the sheriff of Mumbai,she will withdraw them.
Shahani is the last person to hold the sheriffs office – a lesser-known,titular post meant for the betterment of the the city,with no perquisites at all. Mumbai and Kolkata are the only two cities that maintain the post.
Naresh Lokegaonkar (26) who had moved court after Chief Ministers office failed to respond to his applications to be appointed to the post,had stated in his petition that in the order of precedence,the sheriff ranks just below the mayor.
According to Lokegaonkars petition main functions of the sheriff are receiving foreign dignitaries at the airport and calling condolence meetings on demise of prominent people in the city.
Lokegaonkar contended that Shahani had miserably failed in her duties as the sheriff by calling no condolence meetings after the death of several important personalities.
Shahani,the 114th sheriff of Mumbai and the first academician to hold the post,said unlike a mayor who is elected,the sheriff is appointed by the state government and each sheriff has made his/her contribution by taking various initiatives for the city.
Iam an academician and have tried to make maximum contribution to the field of academics, said Shahani,principal of H R College of Commerce and Economics. After relinquishing the post in 2009,Shahani said she handed over the charge to the deputy.
The sheriffs office is located in City Civil and Sessions Court building near Kalaghoda and as an officer of the High Court,the sheriffs job entails issuing summons on behalf of the court and carrying out auctions. The sheriff,however,has no executive power.
Explaining the role a sherrif played in the city,Shahani said in 2008 she had sent three delegations of 40 college principals to leading foreign universities to share their experiences. After the 26/11 terror attack,the sherrif also requested the University of Westminster to double number of scholarships for female students in Mumbai from three to six.
A womens helpline set up by the sherrif,for which over 75 NGOs were roped in,continues to get 300-400 calls a month,Shahani said.
Shahani succeeded industrialist Vijaypat Singhania to the post. Others who have been the sheriff of Mumbai include veteran cricketer Sunil Gavaskar and actors Sunil Dutt and Dilip Kumar.