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Final Hearing in HC against Devasthanam Board on 29 Jun

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By ARUN PRATAP SINGH 

DEHRADUN, 22 Jun: The final hearing on BJP MP Subramanyan Swamy’s case in the Uttarakhand High Court against setting up of the Uttarakhand Devasthanam Board will now be held on 29 June. The case was lined up for hearing, today, but now the final hearing has been scheduled for 29 June. The Uttarakhand High Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Ramesh Khulbe is hearing the case.
It may be recalled that Swamy had submitted his reply to the response filed by the Uttarakhand Government on Sunday through his advocate Manisha Bhandari.
It may be recalled that in response to a notice on the petition filed by Swamy, the Uttarakhand Government had filed its response before the Court on 11 June claiming that Swamy being a political person had a political agenda in opposing the constitution of the Devasthanam Board to manage the affairs of the Char Dham and allied temples (51 in total) including Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines.
In his reply filed on Sunday, Swamy claimed that the State Government had violated the Constitution and rights of the devotees. In his 49-page counter reply, Swamy asserted that the new Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act 2019 was totally illegal and against the spirit of many High Court and Supreme Court judgments that had been delivered against the takeover of temples by various governments.
It is pertinent to point out here that, as against the Uttarakhand Government which had given a rather vague response to Swamy’s allegations and had gone on to allege a political agenda, Swamy through his legal counsel chose to give a point-by-point rebuttal. In his response, Swamy said that the State Government producing his Tweets on the matter showed that he was a person concerned with this case.
It may be recalled that in a 21-page reply, the State Government had produced a copy of his tweets alleging Swamy was unhappy with not being consulted and was violating the court rules.
Swamy’s response said that the tweets annexed to the Counter Affidavit of the respondent (Government) bore eloquent testimony to the commitment of the Petitioner concerning his pursuit of this cause. He also pointed out he had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter opposing the state government’s move and explaining the illegalities of the controversial temple takeover Act.
In his response, Swamy also blamed the State Government for raising allegations against the priests and families looking after the temples in Uttarakhand, including Kedarnath and Badrinath. He said that a direct allegation had been made against the revered Rawals and, of course, the most respected Tehri Durbar; although it remained unclear why the Tehri Durbar still formed part of the Nominated Members if the government had objections to its role in the management of the shrines.
Swamy went on to emphasise that the pilgrims had been visiting the temple for years without any problems and there were never any complaints with regard to mismanagement of the temple affairs. Even if it was to be assumed without admitting that the income had been squandered, appropriate action could have been taken against the people involved but the same had never been done.
Swamy claimed that it shocked the religious conscience of the petitioner with regard to sudden takeover of 51 temples by the State Government without any information with regard to who made the purported complaints and why no action was taken till date. Swamy also pointed out that many times Courts had ruled that temple takeover was only for a limited period to rectify the problems found in the management and not a permanent solution.
In his petition, Swamy also pointed out a series of judgments including the landmark Judgment of the Supreme Court against the Tamil Nadu Government’s takeover of Nataraja Temple. Swamy also pointed out his other cases against Governments including the ongoing case on the management of Tirupati Temple.
Swamy claimed that the State Government had made false claims in several places in its response that there were agitations by the public against the temple management. He also pointed out that the Government was unnecessarily citing the six-year-old (2013) natural calamity in Kedarnath as a reason for the takeover. Swamy also said that the State Government was wrongly quoting the 1939 Act and making wrong inferences.
In his reply to the Government, Swamy said that some provisions of the Act had mentioned that in case there was no Zila Panchayat in place, the District Collector could nominate persons on the Board. This, Swamy claimed was practically a State Acquisition of an ancient group of religious denomination and departmentalisation of the entire Devasthanam for an indefinite period.