Prelude: Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias called yours truly to inform that he has spoken to Chief Minister Shri Prithviraj Chavhan on this matter and CM has assured him that he will look into it.
Honourable Cardinal was told that this matter is very serious and Church should intervene in it. He was also told that general perception in the minds of Lay Faithful of the Archdiocese is that Church is doing nothing to save the Symbol of our faith. He expressed his inability to takeover because of certain drawbacks.
He also expressed his pleasure at the way the activists are doing their job to save these CROSSES and advised us to continue the good work.
Finally, he was told that he should give an audience to group of activists who are at the forefront of this campaign I order to spell out the policy of the Church and clear the doubt from the minds of the people, to which he agreed. He particularly mentioned Adv. Godfrey Pimenta whthese sites because of certain drawbacks.om he is keen to meet. He will shortly inform us about the date and time of this meeting.
Voice OF A SILENT MAJORITY
(CATHOLICS FOR TRUTH TRANSPARENCY AND WEEDING OF CORRUPT PRACTICES AT PARISH LEVEL)
Constuted UnderPara 29 of Christifideles Laici
(Post Synodal ApostolicExhortation ofH. H.Late Pope John Paul II)
A/7, Rodrigues Compound, Malwani Village, Malad(W), Mumbai,400095. Contact no. 98707 19628.
E Mail: email@example.com
(Archdiocese of Bombay)
26th, July, 2014
Most Rev. Cardinal Oswald Gracias,
Archdiocese of Bombay;
Sub: Fate of HOLY CROSSES on the streets of Mumbai;
Further to our letter dated 8th, June, 2014 related to subject matter; we are surprised that you seem to be unconcerned about threat to the symbol of our faith. Your silence, not only does confuse us but also frighten us. Our fears seem to be coming true.
BMC authorities have begun to send illegal notices for personal hearings in relation to these HOLY CROSSES in spite of Supreme Court order to Maharashtra Government to form a committee under the leadership of BMC Commissioner to decide on regularization of religious structures within the limits of MCGM. In violation of Supreme Court Directives, BMC has again conducted illegal personal hearings, seeking proof of legality of these HOLY CROSSES. You certainly must have been aware of similar situations way back in 2003 and 2011. It is the Activists from the Community have kept BMC away from its evil intention of erasing Christian identity of Mumbai, by demolishing symbol of our faith, the HOLY CROSSES.
In the context of recent spree of illegal personal hearings, we have expressed our opposition to Chief Minister and Municipal Commissioner, copy of the same is attached herewith for your knowledge. We would appreciate similar action from you.
Meanwhile, on behalf of Christian Community of Mumbai, we ask you once again; please spell out policy of Archdiocese, in regards to these HOLY CROSSES, the symbol of our faith. Are they under the patronage of Archdiocese or not? Are the Archdiocesan authorities concerned on their existence or not?
Your early response to above questions, either way, would be highly appreciated. Your silence would be deemed as negation of our question.
Yours always in our LORD JESUS CHRIST
GREG R PEREIRA
TEXT OF THE LETTER TO CHIEF MINISTER AND MUNICIPAL COMMISSIONER
GREG R PEREIRA
A7 Rodrigues Compound, Malwani Village, Marve Rd.
Malad (W), Mumbai – 400095;
Contact: Cell: 9870719628; E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
21st July, 2014
Hon. Shree Prithviraj Chavhan,
Chief Minister, Maharashtra;
Shree Sitaram Kunte,
Sub: Illegal Hearings on Holy Crosses by AMCs at various ward offices violating Supreme Court Directives.
The AMCs seem to be ignorant or deliberately ignoring the Committee formed by State government, consisting of Municipal Commissioner, Police Commissioner, Collector, Officers of MMRDA, MSRDC, MHADA, Railways, CIDCO, etc. to decide on regularization of the Religious Structures within the limits of MCGM. We wonder if this committee has abdicated its responsibility and delegated powers to AMC at ward level of MCGM.
We are referring to Directives by Honourable Supreme Court in the Civil Appeal No. 8519/2006 and the G. R. Issued by Government of Maharashtra. Municipal Commissioner, as a Chairman, seems to have failed to convene the meeting of this committee to decide on the issue, but has passed on the authority to his subordinates, i. e. Assistant Municipal Commissioners (AMCs) at Ward level, which violates the Directives by Honourable Supreme Court. AMC’s at Wards, K/East, K/west and F, so far have conducted hearings on to ascertain the legality of HOLY CROSSES, which are century old and, whose legality has been proved to BMC on various occasions. If this action is not reversed with immediate effect, we will have no option but to approach Honourable Supreme Court, intervening in the Civil Appeal No. 8519/2006 and bring to the notice, the violation of its directive.
In this connection we wish to apprised you of the entire gamut of the history of the litigation concerning the religious structures dealt by Hon’ble Bombay High Court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court till date.
To recapitulate the facts we are reproducing the history of the litigation on the subject matter to refresh your memory and for your guidance and ready reference.
Sr. No. Date Particulars
1. In the year 2002 Janhit Manch files a Public Interest Litigation bearing Writ Petition No. 2063 of 2002 for removal of all illegal religious structures within Municipal limits of MCGM.
2. 24th Sept’ 2003 Bombay High Court passed an order for the removal of all illegal religious structures within Municipal limits of MCGM.
3. Oct’ 2003 St. John Baptist Church Save Committee represented by Nicholas Almeida (SJBCSC) files an application in the aforesaid Writ Petition No. 2063 of 2002, pursuant to the various notices issued by MCGM for demolition of various religious structures.
4. 25th Oct’ 2003 Bombay High Court grants temporary injunctions against demolition of Holy Crosses in Mumbai.
5. 5th Nov’ 2003 The Bombay High Court, disposes of the application filed by SJBCSC by directing it to produce relevant evidence as regards the legality of the Holy Crosses before MCGM on or before 15th November 2003.
6. Dec’ 2003 Asst. Municipal Commissioners of various wards pass orders directing removal of the alleged illegal Holy Crosses within MCGM limits, which orders are subsequently challenged by SJBCSC before Bombay High Court, by filing individual W.P. bearing Nos. 3121 of 2003 to 3131 of 2003 (numbering about 20).
7. Dec’2003 SJBCSC and other Catholic Associations remove alleged illegal Holy Cross whose legality could not be proved due to various reasons primary being, the Christian Community believed in MCGM blindly and allowed shifting of various Holy Crosses in MCGM limits without insisting on paperwork including new locations to be shown in City Survey Plan during the road widening process, which cost the community dearly as it had to dismantle such Holy Crosses and got them re-erected in private properties keeping in mind the religious sentiments.
8. 3rd Aug’ 2006 As per Bombay High Court order in W.P No. 2063 of 2002, as per BMC statement 1015 unauthorized and illegal shrines have been demolished by MCGM by 30th June 2006. 167 structures are reported to be protected being in existence prior to 1964.
NOTE: The MCGM has filed several affidavits in this W.P. detailing the steps taken by it for removal of illegal shrines as well as detailing legal shrines ward wise.
9. 29th Sept’ 2009 The Hon’ble Supreme Court passed an order in SLP ( Civil ) No. 8519 0f 2006 to the following effect.
“As an interim measure, we direct that henceforth no unauthorized constructions shall be carried out or permitted in the name of Temple, Church, Mosque or Gurudwara etc. public streets, public parks or other public places etc.
“In respect of the unauthorized construction of religious nature which has already taken place, the State Governments, and the Union Territories shall review the same on case to case basis and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible.
10. 4th Oct’ 2010 Government of Maharashtra (GOM) issues GR regarding illegal/unauthorized shrines on state/public properties. The said GR specific that for the said purpose it has constituted committees for various cities in the State of Maharashtra to be headed by the Municipal Commissioner of the respective cities. The said GR also specified the guidelines to be followed by such Committees.
11. Feb/Mar 2011 The Asstt. Municipal Commissioners of various Municipal Wards issue notices to the religious structures within the MCGM limits.
12. Mar’ 2011 SJBCSC along with BCS files a Public Interest Litigation bearing W.P. (L) No. 517 of 2011 challenging the notices issued by MCGM for demolition of Holy Crosses within MCGM limits.
13. 28th Mar’ 2011 The Bombay High Court disposed of the aforesaid W.P. (L) No. 517 of 2011 by passing the order to the following effect.
“Needless to say that, if the respondent-Corporation decides to take action in respect of any religious structure which according to the Corporation are constructed after 29/9/2009 on public streets, public parks or public places it shall take action in respect thereof in accordance with law.
14. 5th May’ 2011 Government of Maharashtra (GOM) issues another GR regarding illegal/unauthorized shrines on state/public properties.
NOTE: – The entire GR dwells into the regularisation of illegal and unauthorized religious structures which have come into existence prior to 29th September 2009.
15. 13th September 2011 The Hon’ble Supreme Court passed an order in SLP ( Civil ) No. 8519 0f 2006 to the following effect.
The State of Maharashtra has earlier filed an affidavit in which it was mentioned that there are 17,385 unauthorized religious structures on public lands in the State of Maharashtra. Pursuant to our order dated 27.07.2010 it was undertaken to frame a policy for removal, relocation and regularization of encroachments on public land. In the order it was also mentioned that the Chief Secretary of the State would file further affidavit within four weeks indicating therein that out of the total number of unauthorized religious structures how many of them have been removed, relocated and regularized. Mr. Dange, Chief Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra filed an affidavit in which it was mentioned that the following types of unauthorized religious structures on the government and public places shall be totally removed : (i) Encroachments the roads, footpaths and causing obstructions to traffic; (ii) encroachments on the land which are reserved for public facilities or projects; (iii) encroachments which are obstructing important services of public nature such as Government offices, hospitals, educational institutions etc. In the affidavit it is also mentioned that the Government of Maharashtra has decided to form a Committee for the said purpose.
In the said affidavit it is also mentioned that a final decision in the matter of religious structures with a view to have a consistency in the matters of regularization/relocation of religious structures would be taken and appropriate rules would be framed. Unfortunately, even after a lapse of one year, we do not have the proper scheme or rules framed by the State of Maharashtra. We do not know what action the Committee had taken in the last one year.
We direct the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra to file a comprehensive affidavit in which it must be indicated what the Committee has done in the last one year and what is the exact position as on date regarding unauthorized constructions in the State of Maharashtra. Let this affidavit be filed within three weeks failing which the Chief Secretary of the Government of Maharashtra shall remain present in Court on the next date of hearing of the matter.
16. 18th January 2013 The Hon’ble Supreme Court passed an order in SLP ( Civil ) No. 8519 0f 2006 to the following effect.
4. Until further orders, we direct that the status-quo, as obtaining today, shall be maintained in all respects by all concerned with regard to the Triangle Island where statue of late Shri N. Sundaran Nadar has been permitted to be sanctioned. We further direct that henceforth, State Government shall not grant any permission for installation of any statue or construction of any structure in public roads, pavements, sideways and other public utility places. Obviously, this order shall not apply to installation of high mast lights, street lights or construction relating to electrification, traffic, toll or for development and beautification of the streets, highways, roads etc. and relating to public utility and facilities.
5. The above order shall also apply to all other states and union territories. The concerned Chief Secretary/Administrator shall ensure compliance of the above order.
The Christian Community, since 2003 has submitted voluminous documents in support of its assertion that the various Holy Crosses situated on road, footpath and other public places in city of Mumbai have been determined as legal by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court. Last such order being passed by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court in Writ Petition (L) No.517 of 2011.
The Mumbai Municipal Corporation has filed various Affidavits of the action taken against the religious structures belonging to different religious within the Municipal limits of Greater Mumbai. The said Affidavits have been filed by BMC Writ Petition No. 2063 of 2002.
the Government of Maharashtra filed an Affidavit before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 8519 of 2006 in the month of September 2010 through its Chief Secretary, wherein the State of Maharashtra assured the Hon’ble Supreme Court that it shall take steps to form committee headed by the Municipal Commissioner of the respective Municipal Corporation in the State of Maharashtra for taking decision for removal of encroachments of religious structures.
As such two separate GR’s came to be issued by Government of Maharashtra on 4thOctober 2010 and 5th May 2011 whereby the assertion made in the Affidavit of the Chief Secretary before the Hon’ble Supreme Court has been reiterated.
Pursuant to the said two GR it is mandated that it is only the Committee headed by the Municipal Commissioner, BMC to decide the inclusion of religious structures either in Category A or Category B. The said committee cannot abdicate its duties and delegate the power to Assistant Municipal Commissioner of a given Ward and the instant case the Assistant Municipal Commissioner of K – West Ward. It is cardinal principal of law one who issues a notice has to hear and decide the matter.
Lastly, we wish to apprise you that the above Holy Crosses are revered by one and all and have immense religious sentiments attached to them. That apart these Holy Crosses also are heritage structures and their identity needs to be protected. We observe that many encroachment of permanent nature have taken place next to the various religious structures of different religion, but no action of whatsoever nature is taken against such illegal structures. We make it clear that we are not saying anything about the hawkers who temporarily hawk their wares/goods on the footpath and roads in the City of Mumbai.
As such we kindly request you to issue necessary instructions in the matter not to hold any hearing sans the Constituting proper Committee to decide on the issue as mandated by Hon’ble Supreme Court.
GREG R. PEREIRA