The Bombay high court on Tuesday pulled up the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for failing to earmark adequate land as burial ground for Sunni Muslims in H/West ward.
The division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Girish Kulkarni was irked to note that the civic body had come out with an option of showing a plot of 3,000 square meters near Bandra Reclamation reserved for Sunni Muslim burial ground. However, the BMC fixed the area of the plot after taking into account the availability of private burial grounds in the ward.
“Is it not your obligation to provide adequate land for burial grounds?” the bench asked senior advocate Anil Sakhare, who represented the BMC. It also asked him to file an affidavit on the total area that the civic body plans to reserve for Sunni Muslim burial ground in H/West ward without taking into consideration the availability of land at private burial grounds.
Last week, the bench had ordered temporary status quo on a large plot of land at Bandra Reclamation, part of which is being used for casting yard and a temporary labour camp for Metro line-3 and the rest was proposed to be used for the Sunni Muslim cemetery for H/West ward.
On Tuesday, the bench continued the status quo warning that if any construction is put up on the plot at Bandra Reclamation the court would order its demolition.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Mohammed Furqan Mohammed Ali Qureshi, a real estate developer from Bandra, who complained about lack of spaces to bury Sunni Muslims in H/West ward. The population of the community residing in the ward stands at 1.72 lakh.
In his PIL, filed through advocate Ashraf Sheikh, the 39-year-old has cited statistics obtained by him under the Right to Information Act. According to the replies received by him, the population of Sunni Muslims in Bandra (West) and Khar (West) — that falls within the ward —has seen 4,794 deaths in the last eight years.
Qureshi approached the high court after repeated representations to various civic authorities and even forwarding objections and suggestions for reserving adequate plot for the cemetery in the draft development plan fell on deaf ears. The developer therefore sought a direction to the BMC to reserve a plot admeasuring at least one hectare in the ward as a Sunni Muslim cemetery.