SC slams states over illegal religious structures on roads, footpaths

  • Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 20, 2016 01:48 IST
People offer prayers at a temple near Chandni Chowk during an anti-encroachment drive. (HT File Photo)

Unauthorised religious structures near drains and on roads were an insult to God, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, coming down heavily on states for failing to inform it about the action taken against such constructions.

“Everyone has the right to walk. God never intended to obstruct the path meant for the people. Why shouldn’t these structures go,” said a bench of Justices Gopal Gowda and Arun Misra, hearing a petition on the matter.

The bench criticised the state counsel for not filing an affidavit in compliance of its March 8 order that sought details of how many illegal religious constructions have been razed.

“Do we give our orders to be kept in cold storage? Your chief secretaries do not respect our orders. We will show them what we can do for not obeying,” the court said. It ordered chief secretaries of all 29 states and seven Union Territories to submit details on the matter within two weeks.

“This attitude of the state administration is not correct. Let the chief secretaries come to the court. You bother only when we call them to the court,” the bench said when advocates apologised for non-compliance.

The SC had in September 2009 ruled no unauthorised construction shall be permitted in the name of temple, church, mosque or gurdwara on public streets, public parks or places.

For unauthorised construction of religious nature that had already taken place, the court said, state administration shall review on case-to-case basis and take appropriate action.

Reiterating its order, the SC had in 2011 restrained state governments from granting permission to install statue or erect any structure on public roads, pavements and sideways and other public utility places. Since then, the top court reviews the progress states have made in implementing the order. The last status given to the court was in 2013.

“Construction of temples and mosques near drains and kiosks selling tobacco products is an insult to God. This is not due to faith but because people want to make money. The states must remove them,” the judges told additional solicitor general PS Patwalia, appearing for the Centre. It said the case will be heard in May second week.

Justice Misra referred to a Jabalpur HC order that led to the relocation and demolition of unauthorised structures. “If it can happen in one state then why not others,” he asked Patwalia.

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