Plot for Christian cemetery in two months: Maharashtra government to Bombay High Court

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Friday told the Bombay High Court it was ready to allot a plot of land to the city’s Christian community for use as a cemetery.

The plot, measuring 5,000 sq mt, is located in the Aarey Milk Colony in suburban Goregaon (East). The state sought about two months to complete the allotment process.  Responding to the court’s query on whether such land was free of encroachments and ready for use, the government said the plot did not have any unauthorised structures.

The government told the high court that a storm water drain ran through the area and it would be realigned by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).  The state’s counsel, Geeta Shashtri, said this land was initially allotted to the forest department, but it would now be returned to the collector’s office.

She said it would be demarcated by the government and then allotted to the Christian community. The submissions came in compliance with a previous HC order questioning the state’s decision to cancel the allotment of a plot of land meant for a cemetery, and directing it to provide adequate land to the community for the same.

Last week, while hearing a PIL filed by a Christian charitable institution, a bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak had come down heavily upon the government following its decision to cancel the allotment of a 7,500 sq mt plot of land for the cemetery. As per the plea, this plot, whose allotment was cancelled, was part of a composite land parcel in Goregaon that was to be used as cemetery, burial ground, and crematorium.

And while Hindus and Muslims were given their share of the plot for use as a cemetery and burial ground, the Christians were being discriminated against, the plea alleged. In the plea, it was alleged the state had cancelled the allotment without giving them any reason. In the last hearing, Chief Justice Chellur observed that the state had discriminated against the Christian community by cancelling the allotment and directed it to identify an alternate plot for the same.

While the court accepted the state’s submission on allotment of the Aarey plot today, it directed the authorities complete all formalities within a “reasonable period of time”. “Ensure that the land is demarcated by the state government for the allotment, the nullah (drain) is realigned, and all required NoCs are secured within a reasonable time period,” the bench said.

“Also ensure the land is totally unencumbered and ready to be used completely when handing it over to the petitioners,” it said. As per the state’s submissions today, the 5,000 sq mt plot is part of the same land parcel that was meant to be allocated for the cemetery initially.

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