Nashik Municipal Corporation Failed To Follow Procedure While Categorising Unauthorised Religious Structures: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

Nashik Municipal Corporation Failed To Follow Procedure While Categorising Unauthorised Religious Structures: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]

The Bombay High Court has directed the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) to carry out afresh the exercise of categorising unauthorised religious structures that were constructed prior to September 29, 2009 in the city.

The direction was issued by a bench comprising Justice BR Gavai and Justice MS Karnik, which noted that the procedure being followed by NMC was in contravention of the Government Resolution (GR) issued by the State on May 5, 2011.

The resolution had stated that religious structures constructed after September 29, 2009 are to be demolished. It had said that the religious structures constructed before this date will be categorised as those which could be regularised, those which create obstacles to traffic and hence cannot be regularised, and the third category of those which could be relocated to another suitable place.

The GR had laid down a specific procedure to be followed before deciding which structure needs to be regularised, demolished or relocated. A committee had to be set up at the corporation and district council levels to undertake the exercise.

The court had now been approached by two Nashik residents— Vinod Subhash Thorat and Kailas Dinkar Deshmukh, who had challenged the city civic body's decision to issue notices of demolition to 530 unauthorised religious structures in August this year.

The petition had contended that NMC had not followed due procedure while issuing these notices, as it had failed to issue a show cause notice or provide due opportunity of hearing to the stakeholders affected by such demolition. It had further asserted that NMC had not given wide publicity to the list of religious structures by publishing their names in the local registers.

Agreeing with these contentions, the court observed, “We find that the list of the structures of which the categorisation is to be made has not been published in the newspapers having a wide circulation in the city of Nashik as per the requirement of the G.R. dated 5/5/2011. Moreover, even the learned Counsel for the respondent No.4 – Corporation Shri Marne fairly stated that the actual list of the affected religious structures has not been published in the newspapers having wide circulation in the city of Nashik in terms of the G.R. dated 5/5/2011. Mere release of a Press Note in the newspaper that the list of structures categorized can be found in the website of the Corporation is not sufficient compliance of the G.R.”

It therefore concluded that the corporation had taken a “unilateral decision” without giving an opportunity of being heard to stakeholders, in violation of the GR. It then directed NMC to follow the procedure laid down by the GR before categorisation of structures constructed prior to September 29, 2009 into three categories.

The court further clarified that the Corporation is free to take action against the structures erected after September 29, 2009 in accordance with the procedure laid down by the GR.

Read the Judgment Here