Mumbai: The Bombay High Court Monday directed all the municipal bodies in Maharashtra to remove illegal pandals that may come up on roads or footpaths during the forthcoming Navratri and Diwali festivals.
The court also asked the authorities to take action against noise pollution offenders during these festivals.
The bench of justices Abhay Oka and V L Achilya directed the civic bodies to file separate affidavits by November 21, detailing what steps they had taken to remove illegal pandals and book guilty for the noise pollution during the festivals.
It was hearing a bunch of PILs on the issue of illegal pandals set up across the state during dahi handi and Ganesh festivals with noise pollution rules allegedly flouted and inaction by the authorities.
In order to ensure compliance, the high court has posted the matter for further hearing on December 3.
On going through the affidavits filed by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other civic bodies, the bench observed that there was complete failure on the part of the state to take action in terms of noise pollution rules in the just-concluded festivals, such as dahi handi and Ganeshotsav.
The judges observed that the revenue officers did not conduct a proper survey (of illegal pandals) and hence teams were not formed for this purpose. Therefore, the officers could not give their reports (about illegal pandals) to the municipal bodies and hence action was not taken against the guilty.
The bench also remarked that there was total failure on the part of state in implementing noise pollution rules.
The bench Monday cautioned civic bodies and the state to be vigilant during the forthcoming festivals and ensure that court orders are implemented strictly in regard to removal of illegal pandals and violation of noise pollution rules.
The judges asked the civic bodies to ensure that the orders of high court were taken to its logical end by strictly enforcing rules regarding pandals and noise pollution.
The court observed that the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai had discretionary powers to grant permission for setting up pandals but if any illegality is found then such an organisation may be debarred by the civic body from putting up pandals in future.
The high court Monday dismissed a civic application regarding a pandal of Mumbadevi in South Mumbai, in which permission had been withdrawn by BMC because of alleged illegality involved.
The judges also said that earlier they had asked the civic bodies and the state to point out if any politician was using any kind of pressure to allow pandals on roads or footpaths. However, till date, the authorities have not given any name to suggest that pressure from 'higher ups' was used to commit the illegality.
The bench was informed last week by senior advocate Sanjeev Gorwadkar, appearing for one of the petitioners Mahesh Bedekar, that during the recently-held Ganesh and dahi handi festivals, several pandals had flouted noise pollution rules, but no action was taken against them by police and the civic body concerned.
Thereupon, the bench inquired from state government and BMC lawyers as to what action they proposed to take during the forthcoming Navratri festival this month and Diwali festival later.
Government pleader Abhinandan Vagiyani had informed that the state would issue a Government Resolution a week before the Navaratri on the matter and carry out inspection to find out the illegal pandals on roads and footpaths.
The court asked the authorities to strictly implement the noise pollution control rules during all the festivals so that the public at large is not harassed and the high court orders in this regard are complied with.
The bench had earlier warned of contempt action against officers who do not take action against the offenders who violate noise pollution rules and set up illegal pandals on roads.
Anil Sakhare, counsel for BMC, said 304 illegal pandals were detected during the recently-concluded Ganesh festival and notices were issued to the organisers for recovery of damages suffered.