The Bombay High Court on Monday permitted the resumption of piling and construction activities undertaken by two developers in the vicinity of Banganga Tank at Walkeshwar temple, Malabar Hill, after it was informed by the state Director of Archaeology and Museums that the allegations made by the petitioner temple trust pertaining to “severe impact” on the tank were incorrect.
The court, while lifting the stay, however, directed the authority to depute an officer to inspect the tank at the time construction activities are in process and place a report of the same before the court during the next hearing.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was on February 22 hearing a petition by ‘The Board of Trustees of the Temples Charitable Institution and Funds of Gaud Saraswat Brahman Community’, filed through advocate Devendra Rajapurkar, which oversees the administration of Walkeshwar temple and the Banganga Tank, located in the temple’s vicinity.
On February 22, taking “serious cognizance” of the concerns raised by the temple trustees that a grade-I heritage structure in south Mumbai was affected due to extensive piling and construction activities, the HC had directed the Maharashtra Director of Archaeology and Museums to appoint a competent officer and submit a report on or before March 1.
The officer, on February 23, while the work was stopped, conducted a survey of the tank and examined the piling and construction activities to ascertain whether the work was being done as per the conditions without affecting the state-protected monument.
After hearing submissions, the bench observed, “Perusal of the report (of February 23 survey) prima facie reveals that the allegations levelled in the writ petition are incorrect.”
In view of this, the HC said, “We grant liberty to the respondents to resume the piling and construction activities. However, since the tank is a heritage structure and ought to be preserved, we also direct that the Director may, in his discretion, depute the same officer once again or some other officer to inspect the tank at the time piling and construction activities are in progress at the instance of the respondents so as to give us a better picture on the allegations levelled by the petitioner that the tank faces real risk of damage when such activities are in progress and its water gets severely affected.”
The HC will hear the plea next on March 8.