In a major setback to the Gujarat Government, the Supreme Court has set aside the order of the Gujarat High Court in the Sabarmati Ashram Redevelopment project. The Gujarat High Court had cleared decks for the project and had given a go-ahead to the project. The order was challenged by Tushar Gandhi, who is the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. While hearing the petition on the matter on Friday, the Supreme Court set aside the project. The petitioner had challenged the case saying that the redevelopment “will change the place into a commercial hub as the government is planning to change it into a museum.”
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant which set aside the order of the High Court, said High Court did not call for a “comprehensive affidavit from the state of Gujarat before disposing of the writ petition filed by Gandhi.”
The judgement noted: We are of the considered view that it would be appropriate for the High Court to decide upon the issues which are raised in the petition after furnishing to the state of Gujarat an opportunity of filing a comprehensive affidavit dealing with various facets of the matter.
The top court also clarified that it has not entered into the merit of the issues which are sought to be raised by the petitioner or the correctness of such aspects of the matter which the state of Gujarat or which other respondents may wish to place before the High Court. “We are leaving to the High Court to take the fresh view after hearing the parties and allowing pleadings to be completed. All the rights and contentions of the parties are kept open. Both the petitioner and the Solicitor General have joined in to request the court for expeditious hearing”, the judgement added.
On March 25, the top court had agreed to hear a plea filed by Gandhi challenging the Gujarat High Court’s order.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Gandhi, had said that they have challenged the resolution of the Gujarat government and the Gujarat Tourism Corporation is undertaking a project for the redevelopment of Sabarmati Ashram.
Gandhi has moved to the top court challenging the High Court order rejecting his plea against the Sabarmati Ashram redevelopment project after the state government assured that it will ”not touch” three key attractions in the one-acre area housing the main ashram.
”The government has given an assurance that the existing Ashram, which is in an area of one acre, will not be disturbed, and it will be maintained as it is. Thus, all the fears and apprehensions of the petitioner stand allayed in the government’s order,” the High Court had said.
The Rs 1,200 crore Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project has been jointly undertaken by the state and the central government for developing the ashram, where Mahatma Gandhi lived from 1917 to 1930.
The project would be developed over an area of 55 acres from the existing five acres by bringing together heritage buildings and restoring the surroundings.