The Bombay high court on Wednesday cleared the way for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival by disposing of a petition seeking a direction to the organisers to shift the venue from Kala Ghoda in Fort to Cross Maidan near Churchgate station.
Local resident Berges Malu had filed the petition, contending that the festival compels many arterial roads to be blocked, creating a hindrance for local residents.
Apart from alleging violation of noise pollution norms, Malu had contended that K Dubash Marg, Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce Lane and Sai Baba Lane are barricaded and stalls set up there during the festival and could hinder emergency services in the event of a fire, medical emergency or terrorist strike.
On Wednesday, a division bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice Revati Mohite-Dere granted conditional permission for the festival after noting that the apprehensions of local residents were, to a large extent, sufficiently taken care of by the organisers.
“We have seen the map [submitted by the organisers, showing the new arrangement of stalls] and we are satisfied that sufficient space has been earmarked, so that in case any unlikely incident takes place, fire brigade engines and ambulances can easily enter and exit the area,” the bench observed. It also took note of the fact that shifting part of the festival to space inside the museum would decongest the area during the festival.
Acting on the petition, the court had earlier appointed a committee comprising an advocate, a senior police official and a civic official to monitor the February 2014 edition of the festival and submit a report to the court.
The court has now directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the director general of police to appoint their respective nominees to the court-appointed committee and hold a meeting with organisers to ensure that shortcomings noted in 2014 Kala Ghoda Arts Festival are addressed. The court has granted the committee liberty to impose any additional conditions in that regard.
The court also directed the BMC to ensure that a team is sent every two hours to collect garbage from the festival area so as to ensure cleanliness during the festival. The organisers are directed to engage necessary housekeeping staff to collect and segregate dry and wet garbage, thus making its disposal easier.
The organisers are also directed to ensure that fire extinguishers are kept at stalls, to adhere to noise-pollution norms, and to take adequate care to ensure that no short circuit is caused due to loose live electrical wires.
Advocate Birendra Saraf, who represented the organisers, had submitted that in order to allay the apprehensions of local residents, the organisers will keep a substantial part of K Dubash Marg open by reducing the number of stalls on the main road from 89 to 50, those too on the pavement.
Saraf also pointed out that in order to decongest the area, the organisers have obtained permission from the director general of museums to use the open space within the premises of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj museum. He submitted that the music section of the festival was already being held at Cross Maidan, as the Kala Ghoda area is a silent zone.
“The BMC has been very supportive, so have all the residents of Mumbai in our endeavour to make the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival a happy occasion for all,” said festival director Brinda Miller. “We have done exactly what the Bombay high court has asked, and are thankful to the museum for letting us use their space despite not allowing anyone else to ever use it earlier The Kala Ghoda festival has been running for 15 years, and every year it has just been getting better. To date, we have not broken any rule, and we will ensure that it is a smooth process this year for all.”