Trust, State, BMC To File Affidavits


Hearing two public interest litigations against the state government’s move to convert the Mumbai mayor’s bungalow into a memorial for late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, the Bombay high court on Thursday allowed the petitioners to make changes to their pleas to also challenge the Rs 100 crore allocation for the memorial.

A division bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice Nitin Jamdar issued notice to the Balasaheb Thackeray Rashtriya Smarak Samiti, a trust set up in 2016 to manage the affairs of the memorial, and asked the state, the BMC and the trust to file their affidavits before the next hearing on February 12.

The state cabinet had on Tuesday sanctioned Rs 100 crore for the memorial from the MMRDA’s kitty. On Wednesday, Thackeray’s birth anniversary, the BMC handed over the land to the trust, having leased it for Re 1 per annum for construction of the memorial.

The petitions were filed by activist Bhagwanji Rayani and NGO Jan Mukti Morcha in April 2017, when the government had proposed to set up the memorial. They said the state was violating rules as well as Supreme Court rulings that prohibited conversion of government-owned bungalows into memorials.

The land housing the old mayor’s bungalow at Shivaji Park was handed over to the Thackeray memorial trust on Wednesday

Trust is private, claim PILs; state cites ‘discretion’

The BMC had approved the proposal for converting the mayor’s bungalow at Shivaji Park, with its plot spread over approximately 11,500 sq m, into a memorial.

Advocate Uday Warunjikar, counsel for the petitioners, said the Samiti was not a government trust but a private one. “Of the 11 members, only four are government functionaries. Five, which include Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son (Aaditya), are private citizens who have been appointed as permanent members of the trust. The remaining two members are to be appointed for a period of five years,” Warunjikar said.

The petitioners also wanted to make changes to the PIL that challenged the law enacted for the memorial as well as a recent amendment to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, which empowers the municipal commissioner to lease any immovable BMC property for The state, however, justified its decision saying it had the discretion to allocate land or money for memorials to important figures. The state said that whether a person deserves a memorial was a policy decision that could not be a matter for litigation. The bench said that it could look into the process.