The Bombay high court on Tuesday ordered a temporary freeze on a large plot of land at Bandra Reclamation, part of which is being used for a casting yard and temporary labour accommodation for Metro-3 workers.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Girish Kulkarni ordered all authorities to maintain the status quo on the 47-hectare plot after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) failed to inform it how much of the land would be reserved in its draft development plan for a Muslim cemetery.
The bench also directed the civic body to place on record its policy, if any, to provide reservation for cremation grounds and cemeteries in every civic ward in accordance with the population of that ward.
The bench noted angrily that the BMC’s lawyer was unable to tell it clearly how much land had been reserved in H/West ward for a Muslim cemetery. The lawyer had said that an area of 5,000 square feet was shown as reserved but there was a proposal to increase this to 20,000 square feet.
The judges said that what was being told to the court was not even final, just proposals in the draft development plan that were subject to modifications. “What is the purpose of making a draft development plan if you keep changing it as you wish and as you like,” said the judges.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Mohammed Furqan Mohammed Ali Qureshi, a real estate developer from Bandra, complaining about the lack of a cemetery for Sunni Muslims in H/West ward despite a substantial population of 1.72 lakh.
In his PIL, filed through advocate Ashraf Sheikh, the 39-year-old cited statistics he obtained under the Right to Information Act. According to the information he received, there is a substantial population of Sunni Muslims in Bandra West and Khar West, which fall within the ward, and that the community has seen 4,794 deaths in the past eight years.
He approached high court after repeated representations to civic authorities fell on deaf ears. He has asked that the BMC be directed to reserve a plot measuring at least one hectare in the ward for Sunni cemetery.