Mumbai: The Bal Thackeray Memorial Trust on Monday told the Bombay High Court that a PIL opposing the proposed memorial of the late Shiv Sena chief in the city be dismissed as it said the petitioner had filed the plea because he “disliked” Balasaheb Thackeray.
The Trust is headed by Shiv Sena chief and the late leader’s son Uddhav Thackeray. Justifying the state’s decision to construct the memorial at Dadar, the Trust told HC that Bal Thackeray was an extremely popular political figure and committed to the cause of a “unique Maharashtrian identity”. It argued that the opposition to such a memorial was clearly malafide and arose out of an “animosity” that the petitioner, activist Bhagwanji Rayani, harboured towards Thackeray.
The Trust made such submissions in an affidavit filed before a bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar. The bench was hearing the PIL filed by Rayani and a city based NGO alleging that the approval for the memorial violated a previous Supreme Court order and a circular issued by the Centre that prohibits the conversion of government bungalows into memorials. The pleas claimed if such a memorial was constructed at all, it must be funded by the followers of Bal Thackeray and not by taxpayers’ money.
They also said that the state misused its powers in amending the development plan to permit the construction of the memorial on a plot of land that currently houses the mayor’s bungalow. In its affidavit, however, the Trust submitted that in February 2017, the state changed the land use of mayor’s bungalow while following due process of law. The Trust said the plot of land in Dadar belonging to the BMC, that currently hosts the mayor’s bungalow, was given to it on lease for construction of a memorial for Bal Thackeray.
The same, it said, was done in accordance with the law. It said a high-level committee was set up in 2014 which held various meetings and explored the possibility of setting up the memorial at various places, including the mayor’s bungalow. It said the property belongs to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the proposal was accepted by the government which subsequently amended the development plan (DP).
“Balasaheb Thackeray devoted himself to establishing and nurturing the cause of unique identity for Maharashtrians and the state of Maharashtra… He was not just the head of a political party, but a great statesman who exercised influence not just among the people of Maharashtra, but those living across India. His funeral was attended by lakhs of people,” the affidavit read. The Trust added that the allegations made in the PIL “clearly show the petitioner’s dislike” for Balasaheb Thackeray. “Such averments show that the petitioner had animosity towards Balasaheb Thackeray,” it said while urging the court to dismiss the plea.