Crematorium demolition: High handed action by collector's office, says Bombay HC; questions petitioner's interest
The Bombay High Court on Monday said the demolition of a crematorium of fisherfolk in Erangal beach in suburban Malad was ''very high handed action'' by the office of the Mumbai suburban district collector without following the rule of law.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar also noted the fishing community was not given a hearing before demolition action was initiated.
''Prima facie, we are satisfied even the machinery of the court was abused to ensure removal of the crematorium,'' the court said.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by city resident Chetan Vyas raising concerns over unauthorized construction of a Hindu crematorium on the beach by the fishing community. The PIL claimed the construction was in violation of Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) rules.
The bench noted it had found something amiss in the plea and had, hence, been adjourning the matter but an order for inspection of the said structure was obtained from another bench when Chief Justice Datta was not in town.
CJ Datta said the court keeps passing hundreds of orders every day though no action is taken by the authorities, but in this case prompt and swift action of demolition was taken. The bench said the fishing community that runs the said crematorium were not a party in the petition, and nor were they (community) issued a show cause notice by the collector's office before the demolition process was undertaken.
''We are compelled to record this was very high handed action by the collector's office against the fishermen community without following the rule of law,'' the court said, adding that a legislator had issued funds for the crematorium in 2008 from his MLA funds.
Pursuant to a direction from the court last week, the suburban district collector was present in court on Monday. Advocate Abhay Patki, appearing for the collector, told the court the crematorium was demolished following directions from Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) for CRZ violations, but added that the fishing community was not given a hearing.
''Prima facie we are satisfied the machinery of court was abused to ensure removal of the crematorium,'' the court said.
The bench added that crematorium was in operation in 1995 and sought the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to submit to the court the registry of the crematorium and its own files on death registrations.
''This will let us know if the crematorium was in operation anytime prior to the CRZ notification issued in February 1991 (which mandates clearance from MCZMA for construction in CRZ area),'' the court said and posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday. The bench also raised questions on the bonafide of the petitioner. ''There is a hotel nearby. The hotel must have made this person (petitioner) file this petition. Otherwise why will this person care about this crematorium,'' CJ Datta said.
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