The Supreme Court today granted the last opportunity to the Maharashtra government to remove illegal encroachments on 908 square metre area on the approach road and near the historic Haji Ali Dargah shrine in south Mumbai. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud granted two weeks to the concerned authorities to remove these encroachments and asked the deputy collector to ensure that its order is complied with. The direction came after the Haji Ali Dargah trust, which had earlier volunteered to remove the encroachments, expressed inability in completing the task. The court made it clear to the deputy collector of Colaba zone of south Mumbai that “serious consequences” would follow if its order for removing encroachments is not complied within two weeks from today.
On May 9, the apex court had lauded the efforts of the Dargah Trust in its attempts to remove encroachments. The Haji Ali Dargah was constructed in 1431 in the memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who gave up all his possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Trust had on April 13 relented to the tough stand taken by the apex court against large-scale encroachments around the historic Mumbai mosque and volunteered to remove them by May eight.
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The offer to remove and demolish the encroachments had come after the apex court made it clear that only the mosque, located on an area of around 171 sq meter since 1931, would remain protected while the rest of the area, measuring 908 sq meter, has to be cleared of squatters. Appreciating the offer, the bench had allowed the trust to complete the task on or before May 8 subject to the satisfaction of two authorities indicated in February 10 order of the Bombay High Court.
The High Court had ordered the formation of a joint task force comprising the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Collector to remove the illegal encroachments on the approach road leading to the Haji Ali Dargah. The High Court was hearing a petition filed by Sahayak, a socio-legal and educational forum, seeking immediate removal of the encroachments on the approach road to the dargah which is located on the sea.
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was of the view that the land on the approach road to Haji Ali fell in the Collector’s jurisdiction and therefore the Collector should remove the encroachments.