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No authority to conduct function within protected area of Soneri monument without Courts approval: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court directed that no Authority would organize any function/festival or celebration or get-together or any gathering within the entire protected area of the ‘Soneri Mahal’ monument without the leave of the Court.

The Aurangabad Division Bench of Justice Ravindra V. Ghuge and Justice Y.G. Khobragade heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) raising the issue with regard to the purported misuse of the ‘Soneri Mahal’ at Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar,

The Court perused the report of the Registrar (Judicial) of the Court, dated 09/02/2024. The cause raised in the Public Interest Litigation Petition has been discussed in the said report and there is a reasoned finding that, the Petitioner has put forth a cause, which not only involves public interest, but is aimed at protecting ancient monuments under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. The Petition Branch has also submitted its report, dated 08/02/2024, indicating that the Petitioner has complied with Rules 5 and 7 of the Bombay High Court Public Interest Litigation Rules, 2010.

The  Advocate for the Petitioner submits on the basis of the research that he has made, that the list of such 244 monuments would indicate that, forts, palaces, even several birth places of renowned personalities, social reformers, great warriors etc. in the State of Maharashtra, are declared to be protected monuments. Ahilyabai’s birthplace, birth place of Senapati Bapat, Social Reformers and Educationists like, Savitribai Phule,   birthplace of Lokmanya Tilak, birthplace of Vasudeo Balwant Phadke, Samadhi of Kanhoji Angre, Sardar Kanhoji Jedhe Vada, Samadhi of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, Samadhi of Tanaji Malusare, Mahatma Phule Vada, Veer Savarkar Memorial, Ram Ganesh Gadkari memorial, samadhi of Amatya Ramchandra Pant, several forts, structures and temples are covered in the said list.

The Court has perused the photographs that the Advocate for the Petitioner has placed on record, and according to him, these pictures have been snapped after the recent AjantaEllora festival, that took place on 2nd February to 4th February, 2024, which indicate several damaged portions. The makeshift stage, abutting the ‘Soneri Mahal’, has also caused damage to the structure. The said festival was conducted by Respondents.

In light of that the Bench issued notice to the Respondents.

The  Advocate for the Petitioner submits that, a timely intervention of the Court is necessary on the lines of the efforts taken by the State of Telangana to protect monuments like, Charminar and Golconda Fort, and intervention of the Court in a Public Interest Litigation to protect the ‘Deogiri Praveshdwar’. 

He submits that several people are parking their vehicles inside the ‘Soneri Mahal’ premises. Cattles are moving around. Huge sound/music equipment/speakers were used during the festival, which must have caused damage to the Mahal. There is litter and filth everywhere. If immediate orders for protecting the monument are not passed, further damage cannot be ruled out.  

“In light of such submissions and the record before us, we direct that, no Authority of, either the State of Maharashtra or at the Central level, would organize any function/festival or celebration or get-together or any gathering within the entire protected area of the ‘Soneri Mahal’ monument, without the leave of the Court”, the order reads.

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