The under construction building in Kondhwa in Pune is a “Civic Cultural Community Center” and not a Haj House as alleged by Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has told the Bombay High Court.
Ekbote, who is associated with the Samast Hindu Aghadi, had filed a petition in September seeking demolition of the structure. The high court, however, observed that Ekbote had no personal interest in this and converted the plea to a PIL.
Change in land use
Advocate Kapil Rathod, appearing for Ekbote, contended that there had been a “change in land use” as the site was reserved for providing basic amenities in and around the Kondhwa area of Pune. He argued that the land use had been changed to construct the Haj house which is alleged to cost more than Rs 30 crore.
PMC filed a reply through advocate Abhijit Kulkarni denying the claim that the land use has been changed. Initially, in July 2016, when the first meeting was held by the Amenity Space Community, approval was given for the construction of the Haj House on the property. Thereafter another meeting was held on March 12, 2018 regarding the construction of the Haj House. It was decided in the meeting that instead of constructing a Haj House, a building named the “Civic Cultural Community Center” should be built on the property. It is estimated that the cost of construction will be Rs six crore.
“After completion, if said property is decided to be used as Haj House, then authorities will take the necessary approvals prior,” read the affidavit filed by Harshda Shinde, superintendent engineer with the PMC.
“Property is an amenity space and, as such, it comes under the regime of Pune Mahanagarpalika, the use of the space is to be decided by Pune Mahanagarpalika. Therefore, on February 23, 2018, it was decided to use the property as a Civil, Cultural, and Community Center and not as a Haj House,” the affidavit emphasised.
PMC has clarified that the center will be used by “all the citizens and not by any particular community”. The reply also mentioned that since the property is to be used as a Civil Cultural and Community Center and there is no construction for any kind of religious institute, approval from the Home Ministry of the Government has not been sought for the construction.
Seeking dismissal of the PIL, the affidavit states that it is “filed against the interest and the benefit of the public at large”.