The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai suburban collector to take “immediate steps” to reconstruct the fishermen’s crematorium at Erangal in Malad within four weeks. The structure was demolished without giving fisherfolk a hearing.
A division bench of Chief justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar asked the state to recover the construction cost from petitioner Chetan Vyas, who will further pay Rs 1 lakh to two fisherfolk who intervened in his public interest litigation (PIL).
Vyas had filed the PIL raising concerns over alleged unauthorised construction on the beach by the fishing community. He had claimed that it was in contravention of the coastal zone regulation (CRZ) notification of January 2011.
The fishermen said they were rebuilding an open crematorium, comprising a shed and poles which was damaged during cyclone Tauktae last year. They said they have been using it since before 1991.
The crematorium has to be reconstructed at the original site in “conformity” with the photographs submitted by the fisherfolk. The work will be carried out under the supervision of deputy collector Vikas Gajare.
The court has set aside the September 12 order of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) that rejected a proposal sent through MHADA for repairing the crematorium. The MCZMA had stated that “seeking repair permission is irrational” as the PIL is pending.
During the earlier hearing, the HC had called for the death register maintained at the crematorium, which showed that the first cremation took place on December 25, 1990. Later, two other cremations took place in February and March 1991, which were prior to the CRZ notification.
The judges had summoned suburban collector Nidhi Chaudhari who demolished the crematorium without giving a hearing to the community. The court had come down heavily on Chaudhari for taking an “entirely different approach” and “subverting court orders”.
The court was informed that the demolition was carried out following directions from the MCZMA, which was then rapped for passing orders without giving a hearing to the aggrieved persons.