HC orders GoAP to file affidavit on implementation of SC order on religious structures

[ Taba Ajum ]
ITANAGAR, Feb 13: The Gauhati high court has ordered the government of Arunachal to file an affidavit before it, stating whether the government has implemented the Supreme Court’s direction that no unauthorized construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of temple, church, mosque, gurudwara, etc, on public streets, public parks, or other public places.
The court has listed the matter for the next hearing on 3 March.
Earlier, the state’s land management director had filed an affidavit on behalf of the state government, informing that the government acts in the matter of religious structures in public places only if it receives complaints.
Reacting to it, the court observed, “It needs to be clarified that such is not the import and effect of the directions issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. The spirit of the direction is that wherever religious structures encroaches public land and public use is hampered, requisite action is required to be taken.
“In such circumstances, we deem it necessary to return the affidavit with direction to Chief Secretary of Government of Arunachal Pradesh to ensure that affidavit in regard to every district and every religious place that apparently is unauthorized or is obstructing public passage and public use of the land is identified. The affidavit would clearly indicate the steps proposed to be taken thereupon,” the court said.
The HC has made it clear that in case, after appropriate survey, an affidavit is not filed by the next listed date, a fine of Rs 25,000 will to be imposed “on each of the officers who are found responsible in causing delay in process of the Court.”
The court further stated that in case a wrong picture is projected with regard to the factual situation on the ground, it will consider proceeding against the officers of the state, right from the district level to the top, who are found responsible for it, under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.
Meanwhile, the state government’s additional senior advocate has written to the chief secretary and the land management secretary, urging them to request the deputy commissioners of the state to submit reports with regard to every religious place that is unauthorized or is obstructing public passage. The advocate said the report should clearly reflect the steps proposed to be taken to remove such structures.
“It is also necessary to know as to whether a particular religious structure is on public land, and if it is so, whether steps have been taken to remove the same at the earliest as was directed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court,” he wrote.