During the hearing of public interest litigation by Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, before the HC challenging the development plan of the Gandhi Ashram and its precincts, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, on behalf of the state government submitted, “We are a democracy, not in an autocratic state of affairs.” The development has been planned at a cost of over Rs 1,200 crore. The Mahatma Gandhi Sabarmati Ashram Memorial Trust (MGSAMT) has been formed for enhanced coordination and consultation between the (existing) trusts and the government, and “not to take over anything”, the state government submitted in the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday.
The matter is expected to be taken up further on Wednesday.
Currently, the 120-acre Gandhi Ashram area is owned and managed by five bodies—Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT), Khadi Gramodyog Samiti Trust, Sabarmati Harijan Ashram Trust (SHAT), Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Trust and Harijan Sevak Sangh. The MGSAMT was formed by a Government Resolution in September 2021.
Earlier, Gandhi’s counsel had submitted before the division bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri, “Essentially this trust (MGSAMT) will have the control of the 55 acres to the exclusion of the present trusts.”
“What is important to note is, the trustees (of MGSAMT), will be decided by the state government. So today, they have inducted four representatives of the (present-day) trusts, tomorrow if there are differences of opinion over the development of the project, the state government can very well remove them and they (state government) will be well within their powers to remove them. In this context, the powers of the government to change, vary or, in fact, to completely remove all representatives of (existing trusts) is absolute in this new trust (MGSAMT). (Existing) trusts themselves do not know what will be the effect of the new trust (MGSAMT) coming in and to what (extent) the new trust (MGSAMT) will exert control in the day-to-day (administration),” the petitioner had said.