The Maharashtra government on Friday assured the Bombay High Court that all illegal religious shrines which came up after 2009 would be demolished within nine months. The government had initially sought a year’s time, which the court did not agree to.
For those illegal shrines which were constructed before 2009, the government in its resolution of October 21, 2015, decided that such structures would either be regularised, relocated or demolished and it will complete the process within six months, the government said in an affidavit.
According to an earlier affidavit filed by the government, there are 808 illegal religious structures in corporation areas that came up after September 29, 2009, but only 217 have been demolished so far. Out of 1,065 illegal religious structures in the collectorate area, only four have been demolished. The affidavit, filed by the government on Friday, says that the onus on removing illegal structures in municipal corporation areas lies with commissioners while it is the responsibility of collectors in other districts.
“The commissioner of police in the police commissionerate areas and the district superintendent of police have been directed to provide police protection for implementation of the time-bound program,” Joint Secretary of the state home department, AB Patil said in the affidavit.
Pursuant to an SC order, a state government resolution (GR) of May 5, 2011 had prescribed a ‘well-defined’ scheme for appropriate action against unauthorised religious structures.
The GR specified that illegal and unauthorised shrines erected after September 29, 2009, have to be demolished. The structures have been classified into categories, including old religious shrines and those posing as a roadblock for both traffic and law and order. The GR suggested a three-tier committee be set up at the state, district and corporation levels, including Mumbai, Thane and Pune for relevant action.
An affidavit of the state urban department placed before Justices AS Oka and AK Menon listed out 17,614 illegal shrines, of which 258 have been regularised, 370 removed and 37 relocated as on June 23, 2014. The court observed that though the affidavit stated that there were 17,614 structures, it neither gave an areawise breakup, nor did it specify the categories they belonged to.