Politicians not God, not above the law: Bombay High Court on mangrove PIL

Mumbai: Observing that politicians were “not God” and nor were they above the law, the Bombay High Court today directed the Maharashtra police to book two local corporators for encroaching on mangroves. A bench of Justices SC Dharamadhikari and Bharati Dangre directed the Mira raid police station to book BJP’s Parshuram Mhatre and Shiv Sena’s Anita Patil, both local corporators, within a week, for violations under the Environment Protection Act.

“Political leaders are not above the law. They are not God, or someone who can claim a right to be in contravention of laws. Why is the municipal corporation and the local police afraid of initiating action against the offenders? You must be bold and must not fear anyone” the bench said. The observations came while the bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by an activist, Bharat Mokal, through his lawyer DS Mhaiskar.

According to the plea, both Mhatre and Patil had cut mangroves and encroached on them while constructing their residential bungalows and offices. The plea also said that in March 2016, the local tehsildar had filed an inspection report of the concerned site and named the above persons, along with four others, as offenders of mangrove destruction and encroachment.

The petitioner then registered a police complaint against them in the same year. “The police is yet to take any action against them because they enjoy political support,” he told the court. On the other hand, the police told the court that it needed more time to “study the relevant provisions of the Environment Protection Act” to book the offenders.

To which the bench responded by saying that the Act clearly states that all offenders are liable to be punished. “Sections 17 and 18 of the Act even impose a heavy penalty for contravention of provisions of the Act,” the bench said. It further added that the state officials should be bold enough to bring to the court’s notice “any attempts by political members to undermine their powers, or to obstruct them from performing their duties”.

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