New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday gave time till May 31, 2021 to Uttarakhand government to demolish four religious structures illegally constructed on public land in Haridwar because of upcoming ‘Kumbh Mela’, which is scheduled to be held in the city from January 2021.
A bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said, reasons given in the application and especially that ‘Kumbh Mela’ is to commence in 2021 and will end on April 15, 2021, we are of the view that the state should be permitted to demolish the illegal structures by May 31, 2021.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Uttarakhand government, submitted that the State has undertaken to commence proceedings for the demolition of the four illegal structures in Haridwar and will remove them by May 31, 2021.
Counsel appearing for intervenor Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad (ABVP) submitted that the structures, which have been made, should not be demolished.
He, however, conceded that the religious structures have been made on the land belonging to the state’s irrigation department but added that the said lands were allocated during Kumbh period to the ‘Parishad’.
The bench said, be that as it may, allotment, if any, is temporary and any permanent structure could not have been constructed and the same is to be demolished.
The four religious structures which are to be demolished are of ‘Nirmohi Akhada’, ‘Nirmani Adi Akhada’, ‘Bhaiyadas Digamber Akhada’ and ‘Niranjani Akhada’ at Bairagi camp of Haridwar.
The state government had filed an appeal against the Uttarakhand high court order of October 8, 2020, by which it had refused to extend the time till the culmination of Kumbh Mela-2021 for demolishing the illegal structures at Haridwar.
The state government had earlier informed the high court that though almost all religious structures built on public lands have been removed in various districts including Dehradun, it would take some time to clear all such structures in Haridwar as many of these properties are used to host Kumbh Mela’.
The high court had taken suo motu cognisance of the issue after top court’s December 7, 2009 order in which it was directed that no unauthorised construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of a temple, a church, a mosque or a gurdwara etc. on public streets, public parks or other public places.
The top court had directed the state governments to frame a policy in respect of the existing unauthorised constructions of a religious nature, which had already taken place.
On January 31, 2018, the top court had observed that implementation of its 2009 order should be supervised by the concerned high courts, and remitted the matter to the respective high courts for ensuring implementation of the orders in an effective manner.
In compliance with the 2009 order of the top court, the state government framed a policy on May 17, 2016, called ‘The Uttarakhand Policy for Removal, Relocation and Regularisation of Unauthorised Religious Structures on Public Streets, Public Parks and other Public Places, 2016’.
The Uttarakhand high court had on January 2, 2020, while hearing a suo motu case noted that the policy decision of the Uttarakhand government, taken on May 17, 2016, had remained unimplemented for the past more than three and half years.