Bombay HC Asks Petitioners To Approach Centre, State To Get Vitthal Rukmini Temple At Girgaon Declared As Ancient, Historical Monument

Bombay HC Asks Petitioners To Approach Centre, State To Get Vitthal Rukmini Temple At Girgaon Declared As Ancient, Historical Monument

A division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor directed the petitioners to approach the Centre or State government, within two weeks, seeking to declare the temple site as an ancient or heritage monument

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Tuesday, December 12, 2023, 11:20 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday expressed its inability to direct preservation of the 200-year old Vitthal-Rukmini temple at Girgaon in South Mumbai since it has not been declared as ancient and historical monument of national importance by the Centre or Maharashtra government. 

A division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor directed the petitioners to approach the Centre or State government, within two weeks, seeking to declare the temple site as an ancient or heritage monument. The authorities concerned have been asked to decide on the application within six months thereafter. 

Maintain status quo: Court

The court has directed the parties to maintain status quo at the temple site. However, if the petitioners do not file the application then the status quo shall stand vacated. 

The HC was hearing a plea filed by four Girgaon residents — Shaila Gore, Anant Mervekar, Pravinchandra Dhotre and Anand Mali — in  2014 expressing concern about protection and preservation of temple. Their advocates SK Halwasia and Pranati Mehra submitted that the temple was over 200 years old and needs to be protected as a monument of historical importance.

However, the court notes that the temple has not been declared as an ancient monument of national importance by either the Central or the State government. “Hence any direction as sought by the petitioners for protection and preservation of the site in question, in our opinion, would be impermissible,” the bench said. It also said that the temple has not been included in the list of heritage sites or precincts or places under the Development Control Regulations. 

The bench took note of two reports submitted by court-appointed expert committee and said a need has been felt to preserve the temple site. 

The court was startled at the fact that petitioners had not taken any efforts to seek declaration of the temple as a historical and ancient monument or get it included in list of heritage precinct in the DCR. 

Redevelopment work at temple site

The plea contended the plot where the temple is located has been purchased by some private persons who intend to carry out redevelopment work. It sought inquiry by a committee and directions to stop all construction activities within the radius of 2 kms of the temple which may cause any damage or degeneration of the temple.

The judges took note of the affidavit by the Director of State Archaeological and Museum that the temple has not been declared as a protected monument and that it has lost its historical and architectural context on account of renovation done in the year 2007 by the local residents. 

An affidavit was filed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) stating that while it has not declared the temple as a monument of national importance but it supports safeguarding the temple and the idols kept in the temple premises.

Directing the petitioners and authorities concerned to take necessary steps, the court observed that the Article 49 of the Constitution of India casts an obligation on the State to protect such monuments or places or objects to be of national importance from disfigurement, destruction or spoliation but that is only in relation to those which are declared as such by or under the law made by the Parliament.

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