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"Petitioner's Fears Allayed In Govt's Order Itself": Gujarat HC Disposes Of Tushar Gandhi's Plea Against Gandhi Ashram Revamp Decision

Sparsh Upadhyay
25 Nov 2021 8:05 AM GMT
Gujarat High Court, Tushar Gandhi, Sabarmati Ashram Revamp, Mahatma Gandhi, Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J. Shastri, disposed of, fears allayed, Gandhi Ashram, Gujarat government, SABARMATI ASHRAM PRESERVATION AND MEMORIAL TRUST,
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The Gujarat High Court today disposed of a plea filed by Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi challenging the decision of the Gujarat government to revamp/redevelop Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad at the estimated cost of ₹1,200-crore.

The Bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J. Shastri observed that all the fears and apprehensions of the Petitioner stood allayed in the Order of the Government itself.

The Court was dealing with Gandhi's plea seeking cancellation of the Gujarat government's resolution of March 5 issued by the Industries and Mines Department forming a governing council and an executive council, comprising entirely of government functionaries, for the development of the memorial and its campus.

Submisisons made before the Court

Petitioner Gandhi's counsel submitted that since the Ashram is a historical monument and therefore, the same was required to be preserved, protected, and should be maintained.

It was further submitted that the development would change the character of the entire ashram which is historically important.

In the plea, as reported by PTI, Gandhi had also contended that the redevelopment project proposed was 'diametrically opposed' to the personal wishes of Mahatma Gandhi and that, going ahead with the project would lead to the reduction of the shrine and memorial of the freedom movement and turning the ashram into a commercial tourist attraction spot.

During the court hearing, the Advocate General for Gujarat, Kamal Trivedi made a statement that the revamp plan won't disturb the existing Gandhi/Sabarmati Ashram (on Sabarmati Riverfront) and that all efforts would be made for the improvement of the Ashram.

He submitted that when people visit the Ashram, they have a look at three places- Gandhi Ashram, Museum, and Magan Villa, and it covers an area of 1 acre, however, he added, the same wouldn't be touched and the Government's plan was just to develop 55 acres of land surrounding the Ashram.

He even contended that similar apprehensions were expressed during the Statue of Unity project.

It was also submitted that for promoting and educating the people regarding philosophy, the teaching of the father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, the said project was taken up.

Court's order

Persuing the Government's order, the Court, at the outset, noted that to preserve the history of Gandhi Ji and his role in the freedom struggle, and to promote and educate the great philosophy, values, and teachings of Gandhiji, the Government had come up with the project.

The Court also noted that the Government had come up with the comprehensive proposal to revamp the Gandhi Ashram and it had even constituted a governing council which comprises of several representatives, including the representatives from Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust.

Against this backdrop, the Court further noted thus:

"As such, any apprehension regarding the said Ashram can be espoused in the governing council by the said representatives, thus, the apprehension by the Petitioner that the decision would be taken unilaterally (while developing the Ashram) to the detriment of the Ashram, stands allayed."

The Court further observed that the Government, in its order, had fixed the role and responsibility of the Governing Council.

"The authorities required to implement the proposal have also been specified, which indicates that neither the Ashram nor its value and importance is being deluded but on the other hand, enhanced, by virtue of the said development work. This would not only be a source of inspiration to one and all across the globe, but it would also be a tourist destination, and it would, in the process, gain both, name, fame at the national and the international level'

With these observations, the Court held that the apprehensions of the Petitioner stood allayed under the Government's order itself. With this, the Court, while taking into account the submissions and undertaking of the Advocate General, disposed of the plea.

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