Bombay HC dismisses plea by Uddhav-led Sena against nod to Shinde faction for ‘Diwali Pahat’ in Thane

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday cleared the way for two members of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena group to hold the ‘Diwali Pahat’ event on October 24 at Talao Pali area in Thane, by dismissing the plea filed by members of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) claiming that the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) had refused to grant them permission for the event with ‘malafide’ intention.

A division bench of Justice Ramesh D Dhanuka and Justice Kamal R Khata dismissed the plea on merits and refused to interfere in TMC’s decision.

The two Shiv Sena factions in Thane are at loggerheads over the venue for Diwali Pahat, an annual musical event held on the first day of Diwali

The plea by three trustees of Anand Charitable Trust, including former corporator Mandar Pramod Vichare, challenged the October 13 order of the civic body that permitted the Shinde faction of Shiv Sena to erect a pandal and stage for the Diwali Pahat event at a venue near Rajwant Jewellers, Talao Pali in Thane. The preliminary permission was granted to the petitioners on October 10.

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The petitioners claimed that the impugned order was “illegal” and was an “abuse of process of law” and “against the principles of natural justice and equity, arbitrary”. It said the receipt of the application by Shinde faction leaders Nitin Landge and Satyajeet Landge is shown to have received backdated or antedated and was granted by TMC “surreptitiously”.

The petitioners claimed that they have been availing permission to organise the Diwali Pahat event at the said location since 2016-17 and therefore they had every right to do so this year at the same place as a large number of Thane residents attended the same.

The writ plea further alleged that officials of TMC, police department and state government were acting at the behest of the present ruling dispensation, therefore the respondents’ action is “motivated” out of “political rivalry” and to “harass” the petitioners, prompting the petitioners to approach the high court. The petitioners said they applied on October 3, availed preliminary approval on October 10 and complied with subsequent conditions yet the final permission was given to the Shinde group “purely on the basis of political clout wielded” by them.

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The petitioners said that Landge, representing himself as president of Yuva Sena, a youth wing of Shiv Sena, has submitted an application to TMC by misusing the Yuva Sena letterhead for permission to organise the Diwali Pahat event. However, the TMC granted the approval without any intimation or hearing to the petitioners or without assigning any reasons for the approval despite there being an impersonation by the applicant as Yuva Sena Thane president as he was removed from the post by youth wing chief Aaditya Thackeray on July 22.

Respondents Nitin and Satyajeet Landge, however, claimed that they had gotten permission in their individual capacities and had been conducting the musical event for the last 10 years.

The TMC, represented by senior advocate Ram Apte along with advocates Harshal Nahata and Mandar Limaye, opposed the plea and submitted that it had given permission as per Section 234 of the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act, which empowers the commissioner to permit booths etc. to be erected on streets on festivals.

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The civic body submitted the concerned law prescribed that the application for conducting the event was required to be submitted 30 days prior to the event and the same was done by the eligible applicant as they applied on September 19. However, the other application by the petitioners was made within 30 days prior to the event and the same could not be considered.

The TMC said permission is granted once the requisite no-objection certificates (NOCs) are brought from fire and traffic departments along with local police. The civic body also submitted that while the Shinde faction application contained all three stipulated NOCs, the application by the Thackeray group had only got the fire department NOC and the NOC from the local police and traffic police department was not attached.

After perusing submissions and documents on record, the court held that it could not find any malafide intention by the TMC while granting approval.

What is Diwali Pahat?

Diwali Pahat or Padwa Pahat is an integral part of Diwali tradition in Maharashtra. Diwali for lakhs of the state’s residents is associated with early morning gatherings that see renowned artistes performing on open-air stages. Popularly known as Diwali Pahat, performances here are invariably by well-known classical musicians.