The Supreme Court today gave the last opportunity to the Maharashtra government and warned it of serious consequences if squatters from 908 square metre area near the historic Haji Ali Dargah shrine in south Mumbai are not removed in two weeks. The bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud also warned authorities that non-compliance of its order on removal of encroachments will invite “serious consequences” and asked the Deputy Collector of Colaba zone to remain present on the next date of hearing.
The bench made it clear that the encroachments have to be removed within two weeks from today from the 908 square metre area earmarked in the Bombay High Court order.
“It is our direction. You have the Bombay High Court order, supported by the Supreme Court. Comply with it or serious consequences will follow,” it said asking the Deputy Collector of Colaba zone to personally appear on next date of hearing.
“You will be personally held accountable,” the bench told the officer who was present in the courtroom.
The bench asked the government to remove encroachments as mentioned in the notice issued on March 22 of Deputy Collector Encroachment Removal in which it was said that the area under encroachment was 908 square metres and had noted that the dargah trust had no objection in removing the squatters.
The fresh direction to the Mumbai civic body came as the Haji Ali Dargah Trust (HADT), which had volunteered to remove the encroachments, today expressed inability in removing the encroachments from an area of about 500 square metres.
Senior advocate Raju Ramchandran, appearing for trust, said that out of total 908 square metres area, from where encroachments are to be removed, illegal occupants were still present in about 500 square metres.
The bench fixed the matter for hearing after four weeks.
The bench asked a shopkeeper, who is likely to be evicted from the shrine area in pursuance of its order, to vacate his premises “forthwith”, saying “you could have shown that you have some right. We will not allow encroachments.”
The Haji Ali Dargah Trust had on April 13 agreed to remove encroachments on its own by May 8 and was later given some more time to remove the squatters.
The trust’s 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 metres, would remain protected while the rest of the area, measuring 908 sq metres, has to be cleared of squatters.
The 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 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.