INDIA. Mumbai: The Shiv Sena party Chief Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray won in the first round of war of attrition with a breakaway faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde when the Bombay High Court allowed the Shiv Sena to hold its Dussehra Rally at the historic Shivaji Park in Central Mumbai on Friday.
A bench comprising Justices RD Dhanuka and Kamal Khata quashed an order passed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) refusing permission to the Shiv Sena. It directed it to grant permission to the party to hold its annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park in Dadar on October 5.
The Shiv Sena filed the petition when the BMC refused to grant the permission despite applying a month in advance. No sooner than the petition was filed, the BMC decided to reject the application.
Simultaneously MLA Sada Sarvankar (belonging to a breakaway faction) filed the application seeking permission to hold the rally at Shivaji Park on the same day. The breakaway faction had also filed an intervention application opposing the Shiv Sena’s plea.
When the matter came up for hearing, Advocate Aspi Chinoy argued that Shiv Sena has been conducting its annual Dussehra rally at the Shivaji Park since 1966. The party has a right to hold the rally as a matter of practice, and the state government, in its resolution of 2016, had earmarked the ground to be used for the Dussehra rally.
Shiv Sena’s right to hold the rally has been recognized by practice since they have held it for 50 years, custom, tradition. To reject an application filed by Shiv Sena because there was another application to hold the rally was perverse and irrational, Chinoy added.
The bench observed that BMC could not explain why it did not consider the application between the period August 22 and September 21, 2022. “Our view is that decision taken by BMC is not a bonafide decision,” the Court said.
“The application could not be decided for so long, and the police report was called for after the written petition was served. In our view, BMC’s action is a clear process of abuse of law. We are invoking powers under Article 226 of the Constitution. In this case, BMC has misused power by refusing to grant permission to give another application. This case calls for interference and grant of permission. Permission can be granted on various conditions. The petitioner will have to comply with the conditions” the order recorded.
Senior Advocate, Dr Milind Sathe for BMC, said that the BMC refused permission to all because of the law-and-order situation. The 2016 Government Resolution has stated that Shivaji Park is reserved for the “Dassehra rally” and not for the “Shiv Sena’s Dassehra rally”.
Senior Advocate Janak Dwarkadas, appearing for MLA Sarvankar, sought a stay on the hearings of the matter till the issue of “who represents the real Shiv Sena” is resolved either by the Supreme Court or the Election Commission of India. The Court, after hearing all parties rejected the intervention application by Sarvankar and allowed the Thackeray faction’s petition.
The Court granted permission to Shiv Sena to hold the rally at Shivaji Park between October 02 to 06. The Court clarified that the police were free to record the entire event. If there was any untoward behaviour, the same could be grounds for refusing permission the next year.
The MMRDA has already granted permission to the rebel group to hold its rally at Bandra-Kurla Complex ground in North West Mumbai. Its application claims the Shivaji Park was just an attempt to prevent the Shiv Sena from organizing its rally. The dispute between the rival groups about who controls the Shiv Sena is slated to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on September 27.
The Shiv Sena patriarch, the late Balasaheb Thackeray, made his last public appearance at the Dussehra rally in 2011. The claims over the use of Shivaji Park have repeatedly been occurring. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had moved to the Bombay High Court in 2012 and 2015, seeking permission to hold its Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park. However, the pleas were rejected.
In 2016, the Court directed the BMC to allow the holding of the Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park, and accordingly, permission was granted till 2019. The rally was not held in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As per the 2016 Government resolution, non-sporting activities, including public meetings and religious functions, are allowed at Shivaji Park for 45 days a year. This limit was 30 days earlier.