Mumbai: Acknowledging the 'urgent need' for a burial ground in the eastern suburbs, the Bombay High Court has instructed the State government, Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to promptly take necessary actions to reserve over 5,200 square meters of land for the cemetery.
The directive came from a division bench comprising Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor, who were overseeing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by three Govandi residents—Shamsher Ahmed, Abrar Chaudhari, and Abdul Rehman Shah—seeking additional burial grounds for the eastern suburbs.
Due to confusion over the total area reserved, de-reserved, and re-reserved for the cemetery, the HC had, on November 8, instructed the SRA and BMC to clarify the area reserved for the same.
9,800 square meters was reserved by SRA for the facility initially
SRA advocate Dhruti Kapadia informed the HC that initially, the total area reserved for the cemetery was 9,800 square meters. However, the state government did not accept the proposal. An SRA scheme was then proposed over an area of 6822.46 square meters, of which 4557.72 square meters were designated for construction, and 2264.74 square meters were to be kept as open space.
On October 10, the BMC sent a proposal to the government to reserve the remaining 2264.74 square meters as a cemetery.
Senior advocate Ram Apte, representing the BMC, informed the HC that a temporary Municipal Transit Camp, comprising six chawls, occupied a 2977.54 square meter area used to house ex-employees. However, the ex-employees have been relocated, and four of these chawls have been demolished. The corporation is in the process of demolishing the other two chawls. Apte suggested that this area, once vacant, could be proposed for inclusion in the reservation as a cemetery.
The court has directed the BMC to submit a "clearer and consolidated proposal" to the government for reserving an area of 5242.28 square meters (2264.74 square meters + 2977.54 square meters) for the cemetery. The BMC has been given a fortnight to send the proposal, and the government has been instructed to take further action to reserve the said area as cemetery land within the "minimum possible statutory period."
"Having regard to the urgent need for providing a burial ground, we direct that all concerned should act in aid of the State Government in the process of reservation of the land for Cemetery," noted the bench.
Advocate Altaf Khan, representing the petitioner, informed the court about the encroachment on the area already reserved for the cemetery, emphasizing the need for clearance.
The court has directed the SRA to take appropriate steps under the scheme for clearing the area of encroachment at the earliest.
The state government and the BMC have been instructed to file affidavits, updating the progress in the matter, by the next date of hearing on January 4, 2024.