Supreme Court modifies its order to stop demolition of mosque earlier seen as encroachment

In April, there were reports of the Supreme Court directing the trust of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai to demolish all the encroachments in or around the Dargah. The court had explicitly asked the trust to remove all the said encroachments by 8th May. The court had made it clear that only the main structure would remain protected and the rest of the area would have to be cleared of squatters.

The action against the illegal encroachments around Haji Ali was first taken by the Bombay High Court, which had ordered the formation of a task force comprising of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Collector to remove encroachments on the road leading to the Haji Ali Dargah. The order also stated that any petition regarding the encroachments would have to be made in the Supreme court only.

The Haji Ali trust though later expressed its inability to do the job by 8th may and this somewhat angered the apex body. In a 3rd July order the court gave an ultimatum to the Maharashtra government to comply with its order within 2 weeks. The Supreme Court bench reportedly gave a stern warning to the deputy collector of Colaba zone by stating that strict action would be taken if they failed to carry out the demolition drive.

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One of the structures which would have had to be either or demolished or shifted as a result, was the Kinara mosque, which is situated on the corner of the Mumbai mainland from where the road leading to the Haji Ali Dargah begins.

On 11th July, the Maharashtra government had petitioned the Supreme Court, asking it to save the Kinara Mosque from demolition. According to the government’s counsel, the ‘situation could turn bad’ if the mosque was demolished. But then the Supreme Court had flatly refused any such concession and had also slammed the Maharashtra government for making such a request.

On Thursday, in order to start complying with the Supreme Court order, the Collector’s office had removed 25 illegal stalls which were present on the approach road of the Dargah. On the same day the Haji Ali trust petitioned the Supreme Court asking it to clarify on its 11th July order to raze the Kinara mosque.

According to the trust, the mosque was not illegal as it was a pre-2009 religious structure and a part of it which was built on reclaimed or encroached land, could be regularised by the government.

Now it is reported the Supreme Court has gone back on its 11th July order and has decided to protect the Kinara Mosque, a part of which is reportedly built on encroached land.

According to reports, the Court modified its earlier order to protect the mosque from demolition. The court also asked the Maharashtra government to come to a decision within a week regarding the plea to regularise the mosque.

The court has then stated that if the state government rejects the regularisation plea, nobody would oppose the demolition of the disputed part of the mosque. The demolition though is unlikely as the Maharashtra government itself had petitioned the court to save the mosque, so it most likely would order the regularisation of the structure, because a refusal to do so could result in law and order problems.

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