By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 29 Jun: Uttarakhand High Court on Monday began the final hearing on the PIL filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy against the formation of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board by the Uttarakhand Government. The hearing was conducted online by the Court.
During the hearing, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, represented by lawyer Manisha Bhandari, argued his case and responded point by point against the counter to the case filed by Secretary, Tourism & Religious Affairs, Dilip Jawalkar on behalf of the state government.
The government will respond on Tuesday to the arguments submitted by Swamy on Monday. Then, again, Swamy will submit his final arguments as the petitioner in response to the counter by the State Government, following which a final decision in this case is expected this week. The final decision in this case can come as early as Tuesday, itself, or later this week, sources claimed.
It may be recalled that Subramanian Swamy had filed a PIL against the state government’s decision to set up the Devasthanam Board for a total of 51 Hindu shrines including the main Char Dham shrines, namely Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. With the Devasthanam Board coming into existence, the effective control of these shrines has come under the state government and, as per the Act, the Chief Minister has become the ex-officio Chairman of the Board. It may further be recalled that Swamy has in the past, too, filed similar cases against takeover of Hindu temples by various state governments and won.
It may be recalled that Swamy had filed a reply on 22 June to the arguments and plea of the state government to dismiss the petition by Swamy. In his reply, Swamy had argued that the government had wrongly alleged he was filing a case to pursue his political agenda and, that, he had been filing such cases as a matter of principle in other states, too. Swamy chose to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the State Government’s reply to his petition. He argued that lakhs of pilgrims visited the shrines every year without any complaint or problems and, therefore, the state government’s argument that they were being taken for a ride by the priests of the temples was not tenable. The allegations levelled by the state government of temple mismanagement did not appear true since no action had ever been taken by the state government against any temple committee based on such allegations.
Swamy also cited similar cases decided by the high courts and the Supreme Court, where they had declared such takeovers as unjustified.
The state government is expected to record its arguments in favour of formation of the Devasthanam Board, tomorrow, following which Swamy, being the petitioner in the case will be given opportunity to put forward his final argument before the decision.