Court comes down hard on State for inaction in controlling the illegal occupation

The Maharashtra government on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that it would try to amicably resolve within a week the issue of mobs encroaching the Indu Mills land demanding the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial even as the court reprimanded the State government for being “spineless” and “ridiculous”.

The Division Bench of Justices D.K. Deshmukh and A.V. Mohta expressed shock at the blatant attitude of the State government, which had not yet taken any action against the encroachment on the Central government land. “Why are you inclined to move ahead with this illegality? This will show that the government is spineless and has no authority,” Justice Deshmukh said.

Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court had turned into a fortress on Thursday over reports of Republican Party of India (RPI) activists possibly storming the premises. There was heavy checking and police presence at all the entry points to the court.

In the courtroom, additional government pleader G.W. Mattos said after being rapped for inaction: “The State government will make efforts to settle the issue in a week from today [Thursday]. If it doesn't succeed in settlement, it will ensure that the premises will be vacated within three days thereafter, if necessary, by use of force.”

When Mr. Mattos told the court earlier that the State was in the process of negotiating with the protestors, the court asked if it had “entered into negotiations” with the terrorists who had stormed Hotel Taj Mahal here. “There is no question of negotiation,” the court said.

When B.K. Barve, counsel for the Republican Party of India (Athawale), pointed out that the protestors were not terrorists but Indian citizens who had the right to protest, the court asked if such illegal occupation of the government premises was justified in any context.

“Do you find any organised body going there?” the court asked Mr. Mattos, adding that the encroachers were a mass of people and not an organised body. When the government counsel said that the mob was represented by a faction, the court asked: “Which faction? Who is there? Is that a secret?”

“Don't you realise that the State government has reduced itself to a ridiculous situation? It is being ridiculed,” the court observed.

When counsel for the Republican Sena stated in the court that the party would vacate the land as soon as the Central government gave a statement in the court that it would allot the land for the memorial, the court: “Are you threatening us?” The Bench said the protestors should already have vacated the land.

The court asked the State government why it was not using force for clearing the encroachment. “Don't be apologetic about using force. You are using crores of taxpayers' money to keep that force. Use it now,” the court said.

The State government said it would try to get the protestors to evict the encroachment voluntarily in a week. The court asked if it would use force if it failed to evict them peacefully. “Three days thereafter, we will evict them by use of force if necessary,” Mr. Mattos said. Thus, the premises are expected to be vacated within 10 days, either by negotiation or by use of force.

Mobs have encroached upon the 12.5 acres land of Indu Mills in Dadar, demanding that the entire land be allotted for the construction of Dr. Ambedkar's memorial. The National Textile Corporation recently moved the Bombay High Court seeking that directions be given to the police to get the land vacated. The State government has passed a resolution for building the memorial there.

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