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No shrines on roads: HC

mumbai Updated: Mar 24, 2011 01:36 IST
Urvi Mahajani

Taking a strict view of unauthorised religious structures in the city, the Bombay high court on Wednesday observed that construction of shrines on roads should not be allowed.

A division bench of justice Ranjana Desai and justice RG Ketkar, however, restrained the civic body from carrying out further demolitions till the state government framed a policy on the matter.

The court was hearing a petition filed by the Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS) challenging the demolition of crosses in the city by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

In the first week of March, the BMC razed two crosses – one at Hathi Baug in Byculla and another at Gokhale Road in Dadar.

The court has asked the state government to make a statement on March 28 whether they framing a policy on unauthorised religious structures.

Government pleader DA Nalavade informed the court that chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had stayed the demolition [of crosses] in the city.

Petitioner’s advocate, Joaquim Reis, argued that in December 2009 the Supreme Court had directed the Maharashtra government to formulate a policy in respect of unauthorised shrines, including temples, mosques, and gurudwaras, and place it before the apex court for finalisation.

“The policy has not been framed. They [government] cannot demolish [religious structures] before the policy is formulated and finalised by the apex court,” Reis said.

The BCS also challenged the notices pasted by the BMC on some of the crosses in the city. “Some of the crosses are more than a century old,” Reis told the court.

The petition states that the civic body had fixed the datum line as April 17, 1964, for religious structures. This means, any structure in existence prior to this date was deemed to be legal.

The BCS claimed that, as per the list furnished by the BMC, they had removed some of the crosses that were affecting pedestrians and vehicular traffic. “The latest example being the cross situated near Andheri (East) station which was coming in the way of the Mumbai metro project,” the petition said.

The BCS have urged the court to direct the state and the civic body to produce all records, documents, and materials for ascertaining the legality of all crosses in the city.

They have also sought directives to the government and the BMC to follow any one policy of declaring a structure illegal.