Published on: February 12, 2024 at 13:03 IST
The Gujarat High Court recently criticized the Gujarat government for the lack of clarity in its status report regarding actions taken against unauthorized religious structures in the state.
The Court, comprising Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha P Maye, directed the State Home Secretary to submit a more detailed affidavit.
The division bench observed that, as of September 30, 2022, actions had been initiated against only 23.33 percent of the total unauthorized constructions identified.
However, it raised concerns about the lack of clarity regarding whether these actions were merely contemplated or if concrete steps had been taken against such structures.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the affidavit filed by the Secretary of the Home Department, the court noted, “Further, we may note strong exception to the manner in which the affidavit has been filed by the Secretary, Home Department without giving any detail in the affidavit itself with regard to the nature of action taken in the matter of removal of unauthorized constructions in compliance with the directions issued by the Apex Court.”
The High Court had initiated suo motu cognizance in 2006 following a news report stating that 1,200 temples and 260 Muslim shrines had encroached on public land. Subsequently, a direction was issued for the removal of encroachments by religious structures on public space without discrimination.
In 2010, when the matter reached the Supreme Court on appeal, the top court directed all states and union territories to formulate a comprehensive policy regarding the removal of religious structures.
In December 2022, taking note of the Supreme Court’s directions, the High Court directed the state to submit a status report on the actions taken against illegal religious structures.
However, Chief Justice Agarwal found the affidavit submitted by the state to be unclear and criticized the state’s request for case disposal.
The Court deemed the statement in the affidavit suggesting case disposal as “wholly uncalled for.”
While the government appended the policy decision from 2022 to the affidavit, the court noted that compliance with the resolution had not been adequately recorded.
Consequently, the Court directed the government pleader to submit a Secretary of the Home Department’s affidavit, adhering strictly to the earlier directions in light of the Supreme Court’s 2010 order. The next hearing for the matter is scheduled for February 27.