No new construction, only maintenance of memorials: UP govt to court

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 30 2010, 04:07am hrs
The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved for final orders a request by the Uttar Pradesh government to maintain five memorial sites of Dalit icons built at public expense, amid apprehensions that a judicial green light will only give the state a pretext to resume construction.

A Division Bench of justices HS Bedi and AK Patnaik attempted to allay fears expressed in open court that the state government was trying to slip in structural changes on the monuments in the garb of cleaning work. The two-judge Bench said they will sit together and pore over the affidavit filed on Thursday by the state government listing the work it intends to do.

The UP government swore in the affidavit that no new structure would be made or added in any of the properties identified as Kanshiram Smarak Sthal, Ramabhai Ambedkar Maidan, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar Sthal, Samajik Parivartan Sangrahalaya, Pratibimb Sthal and Pyramid or the Drishya Sthal.

Day to day maintenance/repair of all the properties including removal of unutilised construction material/equipment, sanitation and cleaning, lighting of the sites, leveling of grounds, filling of trenches, landscaping and removal of defects are required to be carried out, which may kindly be permitted to be undertaken, the affidavit said.

The affidavit comes a day after the Supreme Court on January 27 observed that whatever monuments erected should not look dirty and in an obvious softening of its former stand indicated that there was no harm in carrying out maintenance work of the structures.

The Bench had on Wednesday asked UP government counsel Harish Salve to file the affidavit, detailing exactly the kind of maintenance, repair and cleaning works the state plans to carry out. This was seen as a turnaround of the apex courts stance on September 11, 2009 when it ordered immediate stoppage of all construction activities at the memorial park and warned chief minister Mayawati against playing with fire by carrying on construction activities on the pretext of maintenance work.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for petitioner Gomti Nagar Jan Kalyan Mahasamiti, questioned the state governments haste to clean the memorials and said the government could very well wait till the matter is taken up again by the Allahabad High Court. Nothing will happen in six weeks. Only dirt will happen and it can be wiped off, Singhvi said.

Senior advocate Rajiv Dhawan pointed to a list of shortcomings and defects listed in the affidavit and said majority of the work detailed were structural changes and not just cleaning or maintenance works.

The list of structural defects that the state wants to remedy include variation in level and alignment of stone pieces, variations in colour of sand stone that have to be replaced, cracks on the stone walls in all five memorials.

What does all this mean Dhawan asked the court after reading out from the affidavit. It means they (state) do not intend to stop at cleaning the memorials. He said the court should give permission to the state only for conducting emergency work like removal of debris and construction material to prevent any harm to children playing in the vicinity.