Gujarat HC Criticizes The State For Absence Of Clarity In Status Report Regarding Actions Taken Against Unauthorized Religious Structures

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A division bench of Justice Sunita Agrawal and Justice Aniruddha P Maye of the Gujarat High Court criticizes the state for absence of clarity in status report regarding actions taken against unauthorized religious structures in the state and directed a state Home Secretary to file a better affidavit.

The bench noted that only 23.33 percent of unauthorized constructions identified had faced action, however, it was unclear if the action taken was merely contemplated or actual.

The bench said “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 of the directions issued by the Apex Court,”

In 2006, the High Court initiated action following a news report highlighting encroachments by 1,200 temples and 260 Muslim shrines on public land.

Subsequently, a directive was issued to remove such encroachments without bias. Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, the apex court, in 2010, mandated all States and Union Territories to develop a comprehensive policy for addressing encroachments by religious structures.

In response to the Supreme Court’s directives, the High Court, in December 2022, instructed the State to submit a status report detailing the actions taken against illegal religious structures.

The bench, deemed the affidavit submitted by the State to be ambiguous. Furthermore, the bench raised objections to the State’s proposal for the case’s disposal.

The court expressed disapproval regarding the assertion in the affidavit that the petition should be resolved by the court, as the state government’s proposed action plan is deemed sufficient to address any further encroachments.

 The court observed that while the government’s policy decision from 2022 was included in the affidavit, there was no evidence of adherence to this resolution on record.

Consequently, the court instructed the government’s legal representative to submit an affidavit from the Secretary of the Home Department, ensuring strict compliance with the previously issued directives in accordance with the Supreme Court’s 2010 order.

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