The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Maharashtra government to apprise it within two weeks about the progress made by it in demolishing encroachments near the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud also asked the Haji Ali Dargah Trust (HADT) to seize the opportunity to beatify the shrine by offering help in removal of encroachments. “We had stayed the demolition with regard to the ‘masjid’ and tell us what you (Maharashtra) have done with regard to other encroachments,” the bench said and asked the state government to submit the report along with the site plan and photographs within two weeks.
The state government, which was earlier asked to take a decision on the plea for regularisation of the Kinara mosque located near the Haji Ali shrine, sought three months time for taking a decision. Some portion of the mosque is allegedly on the encroached land. The bench said that it would take up this aspect later. The apex court also sought from the government a plan on the beautification of the dargah area saying it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had modified its earlier order on encroachments near the shrine while taking on record the consent of all parties including the HADT that if the state government rejects the regularisation plea, nobody will oppose the demolition of portions of the mosque which are built on encroached land near the historic shrine. The bench had initially suggested that the parties should agree to shifting of the mosque to some other place. It has been alleged that certain part of the Kinara mosque falls under the encroached area which have been ordered to be cleared by the Bombay High Court.
The Supreme Court has also upheld it. The apex court had earlier given a last opportunity to Maharashtra government and warned it of serious consequencesif squatters from 908 sq m area near the historic shrine were not removed in two weeks. It had made it clear that the encroachments have to be removed within two weeks from July 3 from the 908 sq m area earmarked in the Bombay High Court order. The direction to the Mumbai civic body had come as HADT, which had volunteered to remove the encroachments, had expressed inability in removing the encroachments from an area of about 500 sq m.
The HADT had on April 13 agreed to remove encroachments on its own by May 8 and was later given some more time to remove the squatters. The trust’s offer to remove and demolish encroachments had come after the apex court made it clear that only the mosque, located on an area of around 171 sq m, would remainprotected while the rest of the area, measuring 908 sq m, has to be cleared of squatters. The Haji Ali dargah was constructed in 1431 in the memoryof 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 the approach road leading to the dargah. The high court was hearing a petition filed by Sahayak, a socio-legal and educational forum, seeking immediate removal of 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.