Vaibhav Ganjapure| TNN |

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NAGPUR: Taking cognisance of Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s (NMC) decision to build a compound wall and internal cement roads for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) Smruti Mandir at Reshimbagh, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday issued notices to both organizations along with the Maharashtra government.

The HC was hearing a PIL filed by social activist Janardhan Moon through his NGO Nagari Hakka Saurakshan Manch, challenging NMC’s decision to spend Rs1.37 crore on Dr Hedgewar Smruti Mandir premises. Moon had contended RSS wasn’t even registered as an organization with the charity commissioner’s office here. The civic body is allegedly going out of its way to construct a compound wall and internal roads at Sangh headquarters in Reshimbagh.

A division bench comprising justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Arun Upadhye asked the respondents, including RSS general secretary, NMC commissioner Ashwin Mudgal and NMC standing committee chairman Sandeep Jadhav, and state General Administration Department to respond before October 3.

Earlier, senior counsel Sunil Manohar, appearing for RSS, informed that the petitioner had wrongly named RSS Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat as respondent in the PIL. He clarified that since RSS is a private organization, it’s constitution gives its general secretary the statutory authority in hierarchy. Accordingly, the court modified its order and issued notice to RSS secretary, in concurrence with the petitioner.

Citing media reports, petitioner’s counsel Ashwin Ingole started proceedings contending that RSS is an unregistered organization, yet the civic body is extending undue favours to them at taxpayers’ expense. The judges then asked the counsel what investigations he had done, instead of relying only on media reports. He replied they had obtained some information under the RTI Act from NMC.

In a series of reports, TOI had exposed how sycophants in the civic body were trying to please their leaders in the RSS. There have also been allegations of NMC leaders lobbying for tickets for assembly, Parliament and other seats. It is reported that though the rules do not allow NMC to spend on private premises, an exception can be made for notified tourist sites or pilgrim places like Deekshabhoomi, while the RSS headquarter is neither of these.

The proposal in this regard was first moved by ruling party leader Sandip Joshi and former mayor Pravin Datke in NMC. The Standing Panel under Jadhav later cleared it on September 12 with majority votes, even as Congress corporators opposed the move. Leader of opposition Tanaji Wanwe too had demanded immediate withdrawal of the order while citing NMC’s financial ill-health. Manoj Sangole, Harish Gwalbansi and Ansari Sayeeda Begum of Congress, and Jitendra Ghodeshwar of BSP registered their protest during the meeting.

The petitioner argued that the BJP-ruled corporation always cites financial crunch for not doing even mandatory works like maintaining roads, potholes and gutter lines.