Friday, December 23, 2011

Anna Hazare to fast at Mumbai's MMRDA ground despite Bombay HC criticism

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Anna Hazare today made it clear that he will go ahead with his three-day fast in Mumbai from December 27 at MMRDA ground for which he will organise the Rs 7 lakh rent through donations as the Bombay High Court rejected a petition seeking discounted rates for the protest venue.

"MMRDA will give some concessions and the ground hire cost will be Rs 7 lakh. The donations will be accepted only by cheque and draft. We will also keep tab on the donors," he said in Ralegan Siddhi.

Hazare said his close aides Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi will join him in his fast in Mumbai while another group of activists will go on hunger strike in Delhi in support for a strong Lokpal bill.

He said it was wrong on part of his supporters to approach the court seeking concession for the venue and that if they had sought his opinion, he would not have allowed them to seek judicial intervention.

"Azad Maidan's area is not enough. MMRDA has said they would reduce the rent. They said if your organisation is registered, then we will reduce the rate. People have already offered to donate Rs one-two lakh. If people are ready to donatre and MMRDA is ready to reduce the rent, I asked them (supporters) to take it," Hazare told reporters.

Anna's satyagraha could be nuisance for others: HC

Coming down heavily on Team Anna's agitation, the Bombay high court on Friday said it can't allow "parallel canvassing" when Parliament is seized with debate on Lokpal bill and questioned its decision to seek exemption from charges to use MMRDA grounds for Anna Hazare's proposed fast.

The court refused to interfere in the matter, saying it cannot ask government authorities (MMRDA) to grant them exemption.

"It is not judicable. If we pass an order allowing your petition then even we will be interfering with the functioning of Parliament," a division bench of justices P B Majmudar and Mridula Bhatkar observed.

"We can't allow parallel canvassing when Parliament is seized with debate on the bill. You can propagate the bill sitting at home. Till now the bill has not been passed. No one knows what form and what features it will have. Is public debate permissible at this stage?," the court asked.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Jagrut Nagrik Manch, affiliated to Anna Hazare's India Against Corruption, seeking direction to government to allot the MMRDA ground in suburban Bandra-Kurla Complex either for free or at a concessional rate.

Disapproving of the agitation despite the Lokpal Bill being tabled in Parliament, Justice Majmudar asked, "How is country's interest involved? We are a democratic set up. We have elected a government. Wouldn't your agitation interfere in the functioning of Parliament? The bill will be debated in Parliament where our elected representatives will plead our case".

The court further said that as judges they have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and law. "Under which law are you (petitioner) asking for exemption? It might be Satyagraha for you but for some other factions it might be a nuisance," it said.

The bench, however, asked Maharashtra government to inform whether it was ready to open the gates at Azad Maidan, the second option available for holding the fast from December 27, to allow Team Anna to have access to a larger area.

When the counsel for the petitioner informed the court that they have got permission for holding the fast in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, the court said,"If Ramlila Ground is available, why don't you hold fast there."

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