Supreme Court Seeks Report On Demolition Of Illegal Structures Near Afzal Khan's Tomb; Refuses To Pass A Stay Order
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli, refused to pass a stay order on further demolition of illegal structures near Afzal Khan’s tomb in Maharashtra.
The court was hearing a petition argued by Advocate Nizam Pasha who said that there was apprehension that the tomb would be demolished next because certain illegal structures near the tomb were demolished yesterday.
Afzal Khan, a general of the Bijapur Sultanate, was killed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj near the Pratapgarh Fort which falls in present-day Maharashtra’s Satara district.
A tomb had been built there in his memory.
On 10 November, the Satara district administration had demolished some unauthorised structures that had come up near the tomb. Notably, it was on 10 November 1659 that Shivaji Maharaj slew Afzal Khan.
These structures were illegally built on land belonging to the revenue and forest departments. According to a district official, the unauthorised structures were spread on 15 to 20 gunthas (one guntha is equal to 1,089 square feet).
The case related to the demolition goes back more than five years. Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the Bombay High Court had directed its demolition holding that the tomb was on forest land.
However, the order was not implemented and unauthorised structures continued to come up around the tomb. A contempt petition was filed against the Maharashtra government for not implementing the order.
The Supreme Court had then asked the Bombay High Court to defer the contempt proceedings.
Advocate Pasha argued that the tomb was a heritage structure and the land was granted to the tomb/dargah committee in the 1950s. He also asked what was the reason for altering the status quo when the Supreme Court had deferred the contempt proceedings.
Senior Advocate Neeraj Kaul, appearing for the state of Maharashtra said that the demolitions were not illegal as deferring of contempt petition does not mean that the original order (in which the Bombay High Court directed the demolition of the tomb) should not be followed.
On a query by Justice Hima Kohli, Kaul further said that only illegal structures had been demolished and not the tomb. He also said that the demolition was complete.
Recording Kaul's statement, that the demolition was complete, the Court refused to grant Pasha's prayer for a stay on further demolitions and asked the Maharashtra government to file a report within two weeks on a) the nature of encroachment, b) due process followed and, c) nature of action/demolition carried out.
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