Haji Ali. File pic/PTI
New Delhi: The Haji Ali Dargah Trust on Thursday relented to the tough stand taken by the Supreme Court against large scale encroachments around the historic Mumbai mosque and volunteered to remove them by May 8. The offer to remove and demolish encroachments came 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 rest of the area, measuring 908 sq meter, has to be cleared of squatters.
The top court, which took a strict view of the issue, observed, "Believers of religion would never support encroachment". From the beginning of hearing, it was categorical that the entire encroachment has to be removed. The trust made the offer after the apex court said it has to come out with a stand on whether it supported the demolition of encroachments in the entire area, barring the 171 sq meter area where the mosque is "subsisting". A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar had earlier made it clear that it would pass an order today itself as the trust was acknowledging the encroachment but shying away from providing inputs on the exact area occupied by the squatters.
As the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, assembled after the lunch recess, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam informed that the trust has volunteered to remove itself the encroachments. Appreciating the stand, the bench allowed the trust asking it 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 illegal encroachments on the approach road leading to the Haji Ali Dargah. The bench passed the order after Subramaniam informed that he has the instruction from one of the trustees, Osman Banjara, that the trust itself will volunteer to carry out the removal and demolition of the encroachment. "We thereby allow the trust to remove encroachments besides the 171 sq mt area covered under the lease where the mosque subsists," the bench said, adding that the trust will ensure that the encroachments shall be removed on or before May 8.
The bench also clarified that in view of the offer made by the Trust, it is restraining the joint task force from removing the encroachments as ordered by the high court. The bench also gave liberty to the Trust to place for consideration before the apex court the beautification and architecture plan for maintaining the access and surroundings of the area. The bench also made it clear that no other court other than the apex court will entertain the petition relating to the removal of encroachment around the shrine. It also said it will be open for any party desiring modification of its order to approach the apex court with an application in the pending petition.
The bench also issued notice to Maharashtra government and its civic body on the appeal filed by the Dargah Trust against the Bombay High Court order.
The High Court had ordered formation of a joint task force comprising Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and Collector to remove illegal encroachments at the approach road leading to Haji Ali Dargah within three months. The High Court was hearing a petition filed by Sahayak, a socio-legal and educational forum which sought immediate removal of the encroachments on the approach road to Haji Ali which is in the sea.
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai was of the view that the land on the approach road to Haji Ali falls in the Collector's jurisdiction and therefore the Collector should remove the encroachments.