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Judiciary

[Protection of Vitthal Rukmini temple] Bombay HC asks petitioners to approach Centre [Read Judgment]

By Rintu Mariam      14 December, 2023 08:31 PM      0 Comments

 MUMBAI: Noting that though a need has been felt to preserve the Vitthal Rukmini temple site, the Bombay High Court has held that it cannot pass an order directing protection of the 200-year-old Vitthal Rukmini temple of Mumbai or declare it as an ancient monument of national importance, as the concerned authority has to take a decision on the matter.

“Having noticed the statutory provisions / mechanisms / schemes available for protection and preservation of ancient / historical / heritage sites and monuments we are unable to grant the prayers in this Writ Petition in absence of declaration or inclusion of the temple site in question as an ancient monument of National / State importance or as a heritage site”, the Court held.

However, it took note of the Archaeological Survey of India's (ASI) submissions on affidavit wherein it said that while it has not declared the temple as a monument of national importance, it supports safeguarding the temple and the idols kept in the temple premises.

This, along with other reports showed that certain recommendations have been made and the need has been felt to preserve the temple site, the Court noted. However, it said that the petitioners had taken no efforts to seek declaration of the temple site either as a historical or ancient monument or its inclusion in the list of Heritage Buildings and Heritage Precincts.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition by four residents asserting that the temple was associated with historical events, as between 1888 and 1897, the Chaphekar brothers would visit the temple and organise activities during the freedom movement.

Adding on, the High Court said that as the temple site in question had not been declared as an ancient monument of national importance under Section 4 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, Act or included as an ancient monument or site of national importance under Section 3 of the 1958 Act, granting a direction for protection and preservation of the site in question is “impermissible”.

After analysing an affidavit filed by the Director of Archaeological and Museum, State of Maharashtra, the Court noted that the temple has not been declared as a protected monument and that the temple has lost its historical and architectural context on account of renovation done in the year 2007 by the local residents. 

The Court said that it was appropriate to direct that till decision under this order is taken by the authority / authorities concerned, the parties to the petition shall maintain status quo on the spot as it exists today. The Court granted the Petitioners to move the appropriate authority / authorities in the Central Government / State Government / MCGM seeking a declaration of the temple site in question as an ancient and historical monument of National / State importance or for its inclusion in the list of heritage buildings and heritage precincts, within two weeks. 

“We, however, provide that in case the Petitioners fail to approach authority / authorities concerned under this order within the time stipulated by way of making an appropriate application / representation, the benefit of this order shall not be available to them. We direct accordingly”, it held.

The bench ordered the status quo and stated that the dispute's subject matter must be kept under wraps until the relevant authority makes a decision. “Otherwise, the very purpose of applying for seeking declaration of the temple site as an ancient, historical monument of State / National importance or as a heritage site shall get defeated,” it said.

 

[Read Judgment]



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