Bombay HC Reprimands State for ‘Rapid Demolition’ of Hindu Crematorium Based on Single Court Order

Tanisha Rana

Published on: September 20, 2022 at 22:51 IST

The State authorities were reprimanded by the Bombay High Court on Monday for acting hastily and dismantling a crematorium without abiding by the rules of natural justice.

After reviewing the evidence at the prior hearing, a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar remarked that they felt there was a problem with the PIL that expressed concerns over the construction of a Hindu crematorium on the beach by the local fishermen.

“In the last hearing, even without touching the brief, we could smell something is wrong. There is a hotel near the cemetery, and that hotel seems to have set up the petitioner raising grievance against the cemetery of the fisherfolk claiming illegality.”

“…Why would court machinery be activated for persons who are not coming under public interest, but for their vested interest!”, the Bench remarked.

However, the Court stated that despite passing an order at the time requesting that the State Act in line with the law, everything was quickly destroyed without following the principles of natural justice.

“We pass hundred orders to the State government to take action (against illegal structures) but no action is taken. We pass one order here, asking them to act in ‘accordance with law’ and the whole thing is swiftly demolished!”  the Court added in surprise.

The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Regulation Authority (MCZMA), which ultimately decided that the crematorium violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules and ordered demolition, had not invited the fisherfolk community, to which the crematorium belonged, to the hearing, according to the inspection report, which was noted by the court in the previous hearing.

“The part which we felt was wrong was that the petitioner had approached the Court and orders thereafter came to be passed by a Bench of which the Chief was not a member; since the matter was being taken up only when the Chief was not present.”

“When the matter came up before me, time was sought, and before the other Bench orders were sought,” CJ Datta said.

Senior Attorney Dr. Milind Sathe argued on behalf of MCZMA that the authority should make every effort to ensure that the law is obeyed and that anything that is illegal is eliminated.

The Court, however, was not persuaded that a public interest litigation was necessary.

“You are claiming, the action was taken in compliance of the Court order; if you are so concerned about the CRZ land, then why not take action for all these years since 2017 and why wait till the writ petition is filed? Why did you allow someone to file a PIL?” the Court asked.

The Court requested MCZMA procedures, the outcome of which was the demolition order, reiterating its initial finding that the legal system had been misused to demolish the crematorium.

The Court also requested a copy of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) death registry for fatalities that occurred before to 1991.

The Mumbai Suburban District Collector was called to court by the court during the prior session, and he complied.

The Collector explained to the Court that she was only adhering to the MCZMA’s ruling.

The case’s next hearing is scheduled on September 21, 2022.

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