Taking suo motu cognisance of ‘The Hitavada’ photo-report on plight of Kasturchand Park published in CityLine on Friday, a division bench consisting of Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Anil Kilor took the authorities to task and reminded them of their obligation to protect this Grade-I heritage structure lying in a state of neglect during lockdown period. Specially taking the matter on board, the High Court referred to yet another suo motu PIL based on ‘The sources’ report about brazen commercial exploitation of Kasturchand Park and lamented that the apprehension in that PIL about possible neglect by authorities had come true.
The PIL prepared by Amicus Curiae Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar had demanded immediate action to eliminate abnormal and illegal activities in and around Kasturchand Park and a direction to the City Police head to ensure continuous vigil through subordinate officers. The news report and the photos present disturbing as well as dismal picture of Kasturchand Park ground and the old structure existing thereon, the High Court noted with a sense of grief.
One of the photographs discloses that the pavilion in Kasturchand Park ground is under illegal occupation of certain encroachers and squatters and that the major portion of the ground is in shambles, the High Court noted while treating the report as a suo-motu PIL. “This court being the guardian of rule of law and interest of public, cannot remain a silent spectator to the brazen misuse of Kasturchand Park pavilion by some of the encroachers,” the High Court made it clear while reiterating the earlier directions to Municipal Commissioner and Commissioner of Police about working in tandem and keeping a regular vigil and to permanently remove all encroachments in and around Kasturchand Park. If the encroachments displayed in the report are correct, then “this would be a clear case of non-compliance with the directions issued by this court on April 27, 2017,” the High Court noted while warning that in that case, “the authorities concerned shall be answerable to the court.”
Amicus Curiae Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar informed the High Court that after the authorities came to know about suo-motu cognisance of the news report, they removed the encroachment. NMC’s counsel Adv Jaimini Kasat and Additional GP Deepak Thakre also endorsed the statement. However, the High Court made it clear that Commissioner of Police and Municipal Commissioner should file their respective replies in the matter which should include the explanation as regards prima facie violation of the directions issued by High Court on April 27, 2017. The next hearing is posted on June 23.
HC had banned all private expos on KP On April 27, 2017, the High Court had deprecated the crass commercial exploitation of historic Kasturchand Park and had banned all private exhibitions on this historic ground with immediate effect while directing permanent removal of all encroachments. Barring celebrations of Maharashtra Day (May 1), Independence Day (August 15), and Republic Day (January 26), the High Court had directed the district administration not to allow any private organisation to hold exhibitions at Kasturchand Park (KP). A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Atul Chandurkar, while hearing a suo motu PIL based on the news-report titled ‘Iconic Kasturchand Park, from cynosure to eyesore’ published in ‘The Hitavada CityLine’ on April 6, 2017, had also directed Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) to remove all encroachments in and around KP. The High Court had directed Nagpur Police to deploy sufficient manpower to shoo away encroachers and also to step-up vigil to prevent anti-socials from misusing the sprawling premises for illegal activities.
The news report had highlighted the plight of the iconic Kasturchand Park — a Grade-I heritage site — and its blatant commercial exploitation. The High Court had appointed Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar as Amicus Curiae asking him to prepare a proper petition. The petition had brought to fore systematic negligence, rampant commercialisation of this huge open space, which has a special place in the city’s glorious history. The ground that once witnessed history was converted into an exhibition ground with a large number of exhibitions occupying most space throughout the year, while ignoring sports.
Kasturchand Park is a Grade-I Heritage, but neither the heritage conservation committee nor the district administration, which is its custodian, paid any heed to maintaining this iconic open space. According to existing norms, commercial use was permitted for not more than 45 days in a year, but the ground was used for commercial expos, circus and other non-sports events, the petition had stated citing details from the report.