Form policy to rid Haji Ali pathway of encroachments, high court tells state
MUMBAI: Observing that the state must consider the safety of the pilgrims and devotees visiting the Haji Ali dargah as “paramount”, the Bombay high court, in a recent order, directed the state government to come up with a “uniform and time bound policy” to remove all encroachments from the kilometre-long concrete approach way to the shrine.
A bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and B P Colabawalla said the pathway was “meant for pilgrims and devotees to access the Haji Ali shrine and not for those who have set up their businesses or stalls along the way” thus, encroaching upon the already limited space and posing a danger to the lives of the pilgrims as well as to their own lives in case of high tide and other calamities.
““We would highly appreciate if the state realises the gravity of the issue and comes up with a uniform policy. It must realise that the safety of the pilgrims and devotees visiting the dargah will be paramount and in case of emergencies or calamities, their lives, rather than these structures and business, must be saved. Similarly, every structure on the shore which is affected by the high-tide needs to be removed,” the bench said.
The observations came while the bench was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by stall owners.
They had appealed against an eviction and demolition notice issued by the district collector, Colaba.
The petitioners also claimed that some of them had been running small stalls selling food items along the pathway for years and that this was their only means of livelihood.
They also argued that the state had been “selective” in issuing eviction notices as it had spared a handful of stalls and thus, it “violated their Constitutional Right to Equality before the law.”
While the bench held that the state must be “just and fair,” it observed that the petitioners’ plea could not be allowed.
It held that the pathway needed to be kept clear of encroachments.
It added that a “buffer needs to be erected so sea water does not enter other residential localities or spill on to the roads when there is a high tide, particularly during the monsoon.”
“The policy must involve a timely removal of all encroachments. We expect someone to apply his mind and place this policy before this court,” it said.