The Supreme Court today asked the authorities to take a final decision on the beautification plan of the historic Haji Ali Dargah campus and its surroundings in south Mumbai and execute it by the year end. The apex court, which had earlier saved some illegal portion of Kinara Masjid built on the approach road to the Dargah from being razed, asked the state government to decide on the plea “one way or the other” and sought its regularisation before October 4, the next date of hearing.
Referring to the proposed beautification pathway of the Dargah campus and its surroundings, a bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said, “the same needs consideration at the hands of the concerned authorities. “We therefore hereby direct that the Collector of Bombay shall convene a meeting of all concerned stake holders and authorities on September 04 and take a final decision,accepting the proposed beautification plan as it is or with modifications as may be considered appropriate, or even afresh/new beautification plan within three weeks of holding the first meeting (on September 04).” The court said that on the next date of hearing, the finally approved plan be placed before it along with an affidavit indicating the time within which the beautification plan will be implemented.
“We hope and expect that the implementation of the beautification plan will be carried out, under all circumstances, before December 31, 2017, so that the visitors to the Haji Ali Dargah in the new year will experience the efforts of all concerned in upgrading the existing structure and its environment,” it said. At the outset, the bench considered the response of the Maharashtra government on the steps taken to remove squatters from the area near the dargah. The government said that it has removed the squatters and now six illegal structures remain to be demolished as they are protected by the orders of some competent authorities.
“With reference to the above six remaining structures,…we consider it just and appropriate to require the concerned Court/authority to dispose of the pending matters finally, one way or the other. “To seek expeditious disposal, liberty is granted to the official respondents in the concerned cases to move an appropriate application along with a copy of the instant petition. We hope and expect that all the pending matters will be disposed of within two months from today,” it said. When it was pointed out that one of the alleged encroachers has moved the Bombay High Court, the apex court said the state government will place its order before the High Court that no court, except it, can pass any interim order pertaining to removal of squatters.
The court had earlier taken note of the notice issued on March 22 of Deputy Collector Encroachment Removal in which it was said that the area under encroachment was 908 square metres. The apex court, on July 3, had given the last opportunity to the Maharashtra government to remove squatters from the 908 square metre area earmarked in the HC order and warned that non-compliance would follow serious consequences. The direction to the Mumbai civic body on the removal of encroachments was passed after the HADT, which had volunteered to remove the encroachments, expressed inability in removing the squatters from an area of about 500 square metres. The Haji Ali Dargah was constructed in 1431 in the memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who gave up all his possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The High Court had ordered the formation of a joint task force comprising the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Collector to remove the illegal encroachments on theapproach road leading to the Haji Ali Dargah. The High Court was hearing a petition filed by Sahayak, a socio-legal and educational forum, seeking immediate removalof the encroachments on the approach road to the dargah which is located on the sea. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was of the view that the land on the approach road to Haji Ali fell in the Collector’s jurisdiction and therefore the Collector should remove the encroachments.