CM lauds Uttarakhand HC’s ruling on Charm Dham Board
The Uttarakhand high court’s (HC) landmark verdict on Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board on Tuesday was welcomed by chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, as it seeks to improve the facilities for pilgrims, the preservation of the shrines and their infrastructure and also ensure Devbhoomi’s priest community’s well-being.
Rawat described the formation of the board as the “biggest corrective action in the state’s history since its formation on November 9, 2000”.
The CM made the statement while interacting with media persons at his official residence and reacting to the HC judgement, which earlier in the day had dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by BJP Rajya Sabha (RS) member Subramanian Swamy against the state government’s takeover of the Char Dhams and 51 other shrines through the formation of Board.
The court in its ruling upheld the constitutional validity of Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019.
“We welcome the HC ruling and accept it. We hope that all others opposing it will also accept it, as the government has maintained that the Board has been formed to improve the facilities for pilgrims, preservation of the shrines and development of the infrastructure,” said Rawat.
“The Board was not formed to usurp the rights of the all-important priest community of the Char Dhams, but to alleviate their plight. It was never our government’s intention to take back their rights. Our state is known as Devbhoomi because of the priest community’s invaluable services. How can we neglect their well-being?” he asked.
The CM recounted the bid to form the Board.
“In 2004, the then CM ND Tiwari had first thought of forming a Board for the Char Dham, but it didn’t materialise and he instead formed the Char Dham Development Council. Our government formed a Board for better management of the shrines and facilities for pilgrims,” he said.
The CM underscored the verdict as not a “battle of prestige for anyone”.
He also allayed the apprehensions of all those, who might have been aggrieved by the judgement.
“It’s not a question of victory or loss, but a concerted bid on how to make the Char Dham yatra better for millions of Hindus across the world,” the CM added.
Rawat, however, refused to be drawn into any controversy about his party colleague Swamy’s role, as he had filed the PIL in HC against his government in February and is likely to be smarting under Tuesday’s judgement.
The PIL had challenged the constitutional validity of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019, by which the administration and control of major Hindu religious institutions have been taken over by the Uttarakhand government or by any authority functioning under the state government.
Last December, the Uttarakhand assembly had passed the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board Bill.
In January, Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya gave her assent for the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019.
Aggrieved priests had threatened that they would move the HC against the Act, as they claimed to have been kept in the dark about the new law.
They had alleged that the government took the step to ensure its control over shrine-related issues, bypassing the powerful priest community.
On February 10, a four-member delegation of the state’s priest body met Swamy and submitted documents that were required to file a PIL along with a copy of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019.
Soon, Swamy had filed the PIL against the formation of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board and the resultant Act.