Following an order from the Bombay High Court, the Maharashtra government has directed all municipal corporations from the state to utilise funds collected from taxpayers for providing basic facilities or amenities to citizens and not on organising festivals or sponsoring religious events or functions.
Citing the order issue by the HC, the State Government order issued on 29 November 2017, has asked all municipal corporations across the state to ensure that their fund are not used for religious ceremonies, festivals or functions.
Earlier, after receiving information under Right to Information about almost Rs3 crore spent by Mira Bhaindar Municipal Corp (MBMC), Pradeep Jangam had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay HC. In his petition, Jangam highlighted how MBMC spent funds sanctioned for civic facilities, on organising festivals like Ganeshotsav, Navratri, Eid-ul-Zuha, Eid-ul-Fitr, Kartik Pournima, Chhat Puja and Gudi Padwa, among others.
The reply he received under RTI Act, revealed that every year MBMC spent more than Rs3 crore for various religious festivals. For Ramzan Eid, the MBMC spent Rs3 lakh, for Navratri the cost was Rs10 lakhs, almost Rs30 lakh for Mahavir Jayanti, Rs43 lakh for Vailankani Utsav, and a whopping Rs1.35 crore for Ganesh immersion ceremony and many more, the RTI reply showed.
Justice Abhay Oka of the Bombay HC, in his order in August 2017, directed all municipal corporation in Maharashtra to utilise funds collected from citizens for providing basic facilities and not for religious festivals. The High Court also asked the municipal corporations to provide drinking water and basic facilities for pre-approved or permitted programs and festivals in their jurisdiction. To maintain cleanliness at the public places, the Court directed to provide toilet facilities. “There is no substitute except to provide sanitary toilets or drinking water when some thousands of people gather at a celebration,” the HC stated.
But, the court specified, “by no stretch of imagination can the action of the municipal corporation — of providing amenities … for religious or other functions of organisations or religious organisations — be said to be within the provisions of the law”.