Home Uttarakhand HC reserves judgement on PIL against demolition of mazaars

HC reserves judgement on PIL against demolition of mazaars

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Nainital, 17 May: The Uttarakhand High Court today took a strict stand on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by some litigants challenging the government action against illegal religious structures on government property. Though, the Court today reserved its judgement, it made its stand very clear by pulling up the litigants Hamza Rao and others.

The case was heard by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal. It may be recalled that the state government is undertaking strict action against encroachments on government land through construction of Mazaars and other religious structures on a large scale.

Hamza Rao and others had filed a public interest litigation in the High Court before the Division Bench chaired by the Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi, claiming that the state government is demolishing constructions of a particular religion by declaring them illegal. The petitioners have claimed that most of these structures have existed for a long time but the government is now claiming that they are illegal. The petitioners have claimed that this discriminatory action is being taken against a particular religion, and should be stopped immediately, and the shrines rebuilt.

The petitioners were represented in the court through their advocate Bilal Ahmed. It may be recalled that Ahmed had earlier filed a similar petition on behalf of Chandan Peer Baba’s Mazaar of Kankhal in Jwalapur, but it was also dismissed by the Court.

The Chief Justice observed that all illegal constructions should be demolished. There couldn’t be any exception for illegal religious structures. Justice Sanghi, in fact, questioned the petitioners whether they wanted to gain popularity in their area by filing such a petition. He also commented on the unsuitable behaviour of the lawyer.

Advocate Chandrashekhar Singh Rawat, who appeared on behalf of the state government, reminded the Court that a similar petition had been dismissed earlier but the present petition nowhere mentions this fact. He further claimed that all the photographs enclosed with the petition were related to a single structure. The petition also pleads for similar relief as had been sought in the earlier petition. The court observed that people first encroach on government land and then make it a religious place to avoid eviction. The Court further asked the petitioners why a penalty of Rs 1 lakh should not be imposed on them for filing this frivolous petition.

It may be recalled that the state government has been running a campaign to demolish religious encroachments on government land. Over 300 encroachments, most of them illegally constructed mazaars, have already been demolished so far in places like Haridwar, Roorkee, Dehradun (mainly Pachwa Doon), Moldar in Tehri, Khatima, Nainital, Haldwani and Ramnagar. A large number of identified encroachments are on forest land. The Forest Department is also running a campaign to demolish the illegal structures.