Taking a rather strict stand on ‘encroachment’ of open public spaces in the guise of organising public functions or events, the Bombay high court on Friday said open spaces such as the Shivaji Park ground in Dadar “did not belong to the Shiv Sena, the MNS or any other political party or organisation. Instead, it belonged solely to the people, to the residents of Mumbai.”
A bench of justice VM Kanade and justice Nutan Sardessai said “no organisation could claim a right to the open spaces in the city,” and directed the Maharashtra government to constitute a committee comprising senior state officials, municipal secretaries and some members of the civic society “to consider finding an alternate spot” to hold large-scale events like Dr BR Ambedkar’s death anniversary and to “ensure that the Shivaji Park ground remains free of encroachments from next year onwards.”
The directions came while the bench was hearing two pleas — a petition filed by the Shivaji Park Gymkhana seeking permission to hold recreational events on December 25 and New Year’s Eve; and an application moved by the NGO Weecom Trust highlighting the damage to Shivaji Park while making arrangements for Dr Ambedkar’s death anniversary function to be held on December 6.
The gymkhana had submitted that the events would not be intrusive for residents as, among other things, it would use modern sound distribution equipment instead of conventional loudspeakers and stick to the permissible decibel limits.”
Justice Kanade however, denied it permission for either of the events saying, “For the past four years, the gymkhana has been taking permission to organise events, promising each time that, that would be the last.”
“The Noise Pollution Control and Regulation Act must be implemented without any exceptions. We must also note that the Shivaji Park ground is one of the few open spaces left in the city and it must not be used for non-sporting activities,” the bench said.
“There are several clubs along the periphery of the ground that hold various functions around the year, causing much damage to the ground and violating noise norms. This is a perennial problem and must come to an end,” it said.
The Trust had submitted photographs showing tents that have been put up on the ground, pits dug up across a “substantial portion of the ground” that have caused damage worth Rs4 crore to the ‘water sprinkling system.’
It submitted that around eight lakh people were expected at attend the December 6 event and while a government resolution provided that the ground can be used for the event for seven days between December 1and 7, preparations were being made from November 21 itself.
The BMC meanwhile, said it was necessary to make preparations in advance to avoid chaos and sanitation problems. Advocate SU Kamdar also said the ground would be restored as soon as people left.
At this, the bench said it could not allow such damage to become a “yearly phenomenon.”
“What will you do when eight lakh people becomes 20 lakh. Come up with a better solution,” justice Kanade said.
The BMC and the state have to file their replies in four weeks’ time.