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Remove squatters around caves: HC

Bombay High Court directed ASI to remove all illegal encroachments from prohibited areas near heritage monuments and caves.

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Remove squatters around caves: HC
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Earlier, the HC had asked government to check for notified slums within the prohibited zone

Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to demolish unauthorised constructions and remove all illegal encroachments from the prohibited areas near heritage monuments and caves.

The PIL was filed by NGO Janhit Manch for removal of encroachments around four caves in Mumbai - Jogeshwari, Mahakali, Mandepeshwar and Kanheri. However, the order has larger implications on all monuments of archeological importance in the state.

Justice JN Patel and Justice Amjad Sayed directed the state government’s urban development, revenue and home departments to “issue instructions to the respective authorities to extend all possible cooperation and logistic support to ASI for removing unauthorised structures and illegal occupants from the prohibited zone which covers 100 meters around the monuments”.

The local planning authorities have been also asked to abide by ASI guidelines and Development Control regulations to resolve such issues in the future.

Advocate Shiraz Rostamji, amicus curie (friend of the court), informed the court that in places like Jogeshwari, encroachments were not just within the 100 meters radius of the monument but were in fact on the monument itself.

Additional Solicitor General Rajendra Raghuvanshi however informed the court that despite taking action against encroachers they were a recurring cause for concern. The court has now asked the police to provide assistance to stop resurfacing of these encroachments.

Zulfekar Ali, Deputy Superitendent Archaeologist, ASI, in his affidavit dated September 28, has stated that BMC and collector should be asked to evict illegal occupants in prohibited areas that have come up after the 1992 notification as the land belonged to private individuals.

Several developers have moved applications before the ASI for easing the guidelines. Ali states that such applicants should appeal to Director General of ASI for relaxation of guidelines of the Court-appointed committee.

Earlier, the HC had asked the state government to check for notified slums within the prohibited zone of the heritage precincts. If found, the state government has to re-examine the notification and take steps to de-notify such encroachments. 
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