In a surprising turn of events, the state government has assumed a new role in the ongoing case of separating 29 villages from the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation, stirring up strong reactions and intensifying the already heated legal battle. The state’s sudden involvement has raised questions about the government’s motives and has sparked a renewed sense of urgency among the local residents and leaders involved in the long-standing struggle.

The legal saga dates back to 2011 when an order was issued under the leadership of then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to detach 29 villages from the municipal corporation. However, the decision faced immediate opposition, leading to a stay by the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation. The matter was expected to be resolved through a reconsideration of the order. Still, on Tuesday, Chief Justice Gautam Patel and Justice Kamal Khata took up the case for hearing in the Mumbai High Court, catching many by surprise.

The case, which has been pending in the Mumbai High Court since the municipal corporation’s stay in 2011, has now taken an unexpected turn with the state government’s legal representatives assuming a different stance. Advocates Neeta Karnik and Murthy vehemently argued for the government’s involvement, introducing a new dimension to the proceedings. However, the sudden change in the state’s position has left many bewildered, especially considering the prior legal course that was underway to revoke the 2011 order.

The Vasai-Virar residents, who have been actively fighting for the separation of their villages, expressed deep concern and disappointment with the government’s intervention. The issue gained significant traction in 2020 during a public referendum, where thousands of citizens voiced their support for the detachment of the villages. However, the state government’s recent shift in stance has led to accusations of betrayal from Vijay Patil, the leader of the village movement.

The legal battle has seen its fair share of twists and turns, with the stay order being a longstanding barrier to the villages’ separation. The immediate former District Collector, Gangatharan D., issued a commitment through a public affidavit to lift the stay, but the current Collector, Anilkumar Pawar, contradicted the pledge made by his predecessor. This has further fueled the resentment among the residents, who have been anxiously awaiting a resolution for seven months.

The prolonged delay in resolving this case has become a source of frustration for the residents, with the legal proceedings dragging on for over 11 years. The judiciary has acknowledged the protracted nature of the case, labeling it a “goddess of delay.” If the government does not clarify its position soon, the court has indicated that a final decision on the matter will be reached by January 16, 2024.