The Punjab and Haryana high court has set aside the land acquisition notifications issued by the Chandigarh administration in 2004-05 to acquire 13 kanal and 10 marla land in Behlana village, on which there is a five-century-old temple of Lord Raghu Nath.
Allowing the petition filed by the Shri Thakur Dwara (temple) management through its mahant (priest) Sukh Dass, a division bench comprising justices Surya Kant and Amol Rattan Singh found that the administration had failed to follow the rules. The land was acquired for public purpose of utilisation for the 5th Signals Battalion, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Mohali.
The court said that the matter relating to sanction for acquisition did not go beyond the adviser.
It is the UT administrator alone who is the competent authority to sanction acquisition of any land sought to be compulsorily acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and such authority cannot be delegated to the adviser, the court clarified.
The court was informed that there are 10 “samadhis” on the land around the temple which has a large number of devotees visiting it and that the marble idol of Lord Rama has been certified to be “antiquity” that dates back to the 18th century, in respect of which a certificate by the registering officer, cultural affairs, archaeology and museums, Punjab, has been issued.
Though the court quashed the notifications issued on May 19, 2004, and May 11, 2005, it gave liberty to the UT administration to initiate fresh proceedings in accordance with the provisions of the new Act (The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013), “if the acquisition of the land is still considered necessary”.
However, since the temple is located within a CRPF campus, the court said, “since the matter pertains to the security of the CRPF campus, status quo shall be maintained for a period of six months by parties and the interim arrangement for the visit of devotees to the temple” as directed by the court earlier would continue in this period.
The CRPF had earlier committed to the court that it would not deny anyone the right to pay respects at the temple, after proper frisking and establishing identity.