Dussehra Melawa: At Shivaji Park, a 12-year saga of legal battles and permissions – The Indian Express

While the Bombay High Court recently granted permission to Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction to organise Dussehra Melawa at Shivaji Park on October 5 and set aside BMC’s refusal for the same, the saga of pleas for permissions to hold the rally at the said ground has panned over twelve years since the high court declared the area as a silent zone in 2010.
Thereafter, almost every year, the party would approach the high court challenging the civic body’s rejection for the nod and the court had time and again laid down various conditions for holding such a rally. After the 2016 Government Resolution making an exception for Dussehra Melawa at Shivaji Park, the Shiv Sainiks would seamlessly get the approvals, until the rift between the two factions of 56-year-old party reached the battle for the Melawa to the HC’s doorsteps.
The Thackeray group on September 23 told a bench headed by Justice Ramesh D Dhanuka of the Bombay High Court that the Dussehra rally has been one of the most important annual events for the Sena since it was founded in 1966 and the Shivaji Park ground or Shivteerth, as the party calls it, has been its traditional venue all these years with a few exceptions and getting permissions was “matter of convention.”
On May 5, 2010, the high court had declared the area as a ‘silent zone’ and put restrictions on its use for non-sporting activities. The court had then said that programmes can be held only on December 6 (Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s death anniversary), May 1 (Maharashtra Day) and January 26 (Republic Day).
Subsequently, as per HC order, Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab had sought permission for organising the gathering at Shivaji Park in September, 2011 and the high court had directed the BMC to permit the same saying it entailed “distributing of Sona leaves and burning of effigy of Ravan, which is being celebrated for many years at Shivaji Park.” The organisers were put under a condition that they would abide by the Noise Pollution (Regulations and Control) Rules, 2000.
In October, 2012, after BMC again rejected the permission, the Sena moved the high court against it and sought approval for use of loud speakers and other consequential nods to organise the function on October 24, 2012.
The bench headed by then Chief Justice Mohit Shah, while granting relief had noted, “while we are not inclined to grant any relief to applicant, but hardly a week’s time was left and since the organisers will not be able to get any other ground as Somaiya ground (Vidyavihar) was not a public ground and MMRDA ground (Bandra Kurla complex) at BKC were already booked for some exhibition, the applicant will not be in position to hold the Dussehra function at any other ground.”
The court had clarified that for the function to be held in the subsequent year, the organisers shall apply for Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) ground well in time.
It granted permission to use loud speakers till 10 pm and asked authorities to measure noise levels outside the periphery of the ground.
Again in 2013, Anil Parab moved the HC challenging BMC’s refusal to hold Dussehra Melawa at the central Mumbai ground on October 13, 2013. The court granted permission since only four days were left before the rally to begin.
It clarified the permission was restricted only for 2013 rally and “may not be treated as exonerating the applicant from the liability/obligation to find out any other ground to carry out this social-cultural function” as indicated in October, 2012 HC order.
As per the state government circular issued on January 20, 2016, Shivaji Park can be used for non-sporting activities for 45 days a year. Out of 45 days, the ground can be given on 11 days for non-sporting activities of private organizations and individuals. It granted permission to use the ground for various events including Dussehra Melawa, Jagannath Rath Yatra, Marathi Bhasha Din, Gudhi Padva etc. for a period of seven days in a year.
From 2014 to 2019, the authorities or HC granted permissions to the party to hold rallies. In 2020, the rally was organised virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic while in 2021, it was held at the Shanmukhananda Hall in Kings Circle.
This year, the high court pulled up BMC for ‘abuse of power’ while refusing permission to Thackeray group and put the onus on the petitioners to maintain law and order while holding Dussehra Melawa.
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