The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed a journalist's PIL against the commercial exploitation of a recreational ground in Kandivali for holding singer Falguni Pathak's annual Navratri program between September 26 to October 5.
"We can take judicial notice of fact that similar such events are organised during Navratri but the petitioner seems to have targeted only the present event … of which Sai Ganesh Welfare Association is the organizer....PIL smacks of lack of bonafide and therefore does not deserve consideration," the court observed.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar observed that Section 37A of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, under which the permission was granted, was not challenged. Under the Section, the planning authority is allowed to temporarily change the usage of the public ground for commercial exploitation.
"You should challenge this provision, we will strike it down. What is this? What are we doing? And this has been on the statute book for the last 25 years. The effect of this would be that 10 days after this court passes an order, this playground cannot be used for any other activity," CJ Datta remarked during the hearing.
Moreover, Navratri was a festival "dear to people" and would fall under the category of religious festival, said the court.
"It does not require elaboration that Navratri is indeed a festival which is dear to people of this region and any function to celebrate such festival would be comprehended within the term religious functions," the Chief Justice said.
The petitioner had approached the court claiming that the ground meant for sporting activities was being exploited wherein the public was directed to pay a premium for entry. This was illegal and contrary to public interest, he argued.
Advocate Abhay Patki representing the Collector pointed out that the vires of 37A of the MRTP Act wasn't challenged.
Advocate Mayur Faria for Petitioner contended that Section 37A is not applicable in present case nor has the petitioner evil any motive in mind. He is interested in protecting playgrounds and their commercial exploitation ought to be stopped by the court, the court was told
"What has struck us is that there is no challenge to vires of 37A...In absence of such challenge, we don't think to go into whether state can enact such a law and if such law falls under the constitution framework," the Chief said in the order.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 348