A division bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and S C Gupte made the observation on Tuesday while hearing a bunch of PILs alleging that BJP and some state government offices, including those of employment exchange and Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), had illegally built offices on the said plot.
The judges said they were shocked to hear allegations that illegal constructions or alterations were being carried out by a political party. They said they were surprised to hear that Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has shown complete helplessness on removing the illegal constructions.
"This is a public garden, how can political parties and government offices encroach upon them?. This is complete lawlessness. Illegal things have to be removed and the garden has to be restored to its original state," the judges said.
The bench also asked MTDC and other government offices to file a reply by September 3 to the allegations of illegal encroachment.
The PIL, filed by Nariman Point Churchgate Citizens Welfare Trust, Oval Cooperage Residents association and the Federation of Churchgate residents, demanded removal of all encroachments and structures constructed on the "Nehru Garden" plot of land and restoration of the garden as a green space.
The court was informed that BMC had earlier issued a demolition notice to BJP office-bearers under section 354 of MMC Act but no follow-up action was taken.
One of the petitioners told the court that on a RTI query made by them about the action on the notice, the BMC had replied that the land was under control of Public Works Department and they should approach the concerned authority.
The BMC accepted before the court that a proposal for regularisation of the premises had been forwarded by BJP functionaries and the matter was still pending.
The bench observed, "if a panwala across the road constructs an unauthorised stall you will demolish it and take away his livelihood. Here, you have washed off your hands by saying that the land is not under your control."