The suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal for allegedly having ordered demolition of a wall of an under-construction mosque in Greater Noida appears to be in violation of a series of Supreme Court judgments.
Nagpal is learnt to have denied having given any orders to pull down the wall of the structure being constructed on government land. But successive Supreme Court judgments and observations over the past four years show the UP government may have committed a costly mistake in dealing with the issue.
The state government’s argument that her action could have led to communal tension in the area runs contrary to the apex court direction in 2009 that no illegal religious structures should be allowed to come up on the “fallacious ground” that touching them could lead to law and order problems.
On January 18 this year, the Supreme Court had banned fresh encroachment of roads, pavements and sideways by constructing religious structures or installation of statues of public figures.
The two-judge bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya in its verdict had empowered the government bodies to “prevent unauthorised constructions being carried out under the garb of religious activities as often local political interests and religious sentiments render authorities helpless”.
On May 10, 2011, the Supreme Court, in another case, had made it clear that there will be no differentiation between a temple and a mosque in taking action against illegal and unauthorised religious structures on public land.
The then three-judge bench of justice Dalveer Bhandari, justice VS Sirpurkar and justice Deepak Verma had rejected the plea of the Waqf Board that a mosque being its property may be spared from demolition.
“We aren’t going to differentiate between a temple or a mosque if it is illegal or unauthorised,” the court had stated.
The intervention of the country’s top court on illegal religious structures followed the 2006 Gujarat High Court judgment which ordered removal of 1,200 temples and 260 Islamic shrines that had encroached upon public space.
In its order on September 29, 2009, the Supreme Court following the submission of an affidavit by the then Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, ordered:
“We direct that henceforth no unauthorised construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara on any public street, park or any other public place.”