Team Anna moves court against steep ground charges

Mumbai, Dec 22 (IANS) Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption (IAC) group Thursday filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the Rs.3.77 lakh daily rental demanded by city authorities for allowing it to hold its proposed protest at MMRDA grounds from Dec 27.

‘IAC Mumbai has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High court this evening. The petition is against MMRDA (Maharashtra Metropolitan Region Development Authority) and the state government,’ said IAC volunteer Praful Vora, who filed the petition.

‘Citizens have a constitutional right to protest at a venue which is free of cost and has adequate infrastructure and this is being denied in Mumbai. It will be heard Friday by Justice P.B. Majumdar,’ he added.

IAC had appealed to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to waive or reduce the charges at MMRDA grounds.

IAC has received permission for two sites in the city — MMRDA grounds in central Mumbai and Azad Maidan.

While organisations can hold protests in south Mumbai’s Azad Maidan free of charge, IAC says it cannot accommodate the kind of crowds it is expecting.

‘Azad Maidan cannot hold more than 5,000 people. We are expecting over a lakh agitators to come in support of Annaji everyday,’ said Piyush Bhatia, another IAC volunteer.

Bhatia said even Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi has a token charge of only Rs.5,000 a day.

‘Earlier, MMRDA had charged Rs.2 lakh per day, but according to officials, that was the charge for NGOs. We have secured the ground through our NGO Janhit Manch but are yet to receive our certificate, and hence we have to pay commercial charges for the ground,’ Bhatia said.

The cost of using the ground for three days of the agitation and for one day each before and after for the protest comes to Rs.10.26 lakh.

‘With service tax, it is Rs.11,31,678 lakh. The MMRDA has also sought a deposit of Rs.7.7 lakh for the ground.

Meanwhile, Hazare has announced that he will fast for three days from Dec 27-29 to demand a strong Lokpal bill.

Reiterating that the Lokpal bill tabled in parliament Thursday was ‘weak’, Hazare said that it will not eradicate corruption and reissued his threat of a ‘jail bharo’ agitation from next week.