GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has laid down that if there is no process by the Government for the regularization of unauthorized religious structures in public places, then as per a standing order of the Supreme Court these structures will have to be removed, irrespective of whether there is a complaint in this regard from any quarter or not.
The court made this observation in connection with a suo moto case regarding the implementation of the Supreme Court's order dated February 2, 2010, wherein it was stated that "henceforth no unauthorized construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of Temple, Church, Mosque or Gurudwara etc., on public streets, public parks or other public places" in any State or Union Territory of the country.
It may be mentioned that besides the State of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have been also made respondents to the suo moto case.
On behalf of the Government of Assam, it was stated in the court that so far there is information about only one such shrine (in the Dibrugarh district) in the State, but the matter is sub judice in a lower court. Further, the State's counsel stated that full details regarding implementing the Supreme Court order are still awaited from the Dibrugarh, Bajali and Tinsukia districts. Thereupon, the court directed the counsel to submit the data by way of an affidavit.
The counsels representing the Governments of Nagaland and Mizoram informed the court that there is no record of any such shrine in their respective States.
On the other hand, the counsel representing the Government of Arunachal Pradesh informed the court that there are certain unauthorized temples and churches in existence in that State. However, the council added, there is no dispute regarding these structures and no complaint has been received from any quarter for formal allotment. As such, no action has been taken for eviction.
The court, on its part, told the counsel representing Arunachal Pradesh: "We are of the view that what the Hon'ble Supreme Court mandates is to remove those unauthorized constructions of religious structures at public places and, wherever the Government so decides to regularize such constructions, it is left to the wisdom of the Government to do so. In other words, if there is no process for regularization of religious structures in public places, these are liable to be removed, irrespective of whether there is a complaint from any quarter or not.
"Accordingly, we would require the State of Arunachal Pradesh to update the information and to take necessary action strictly in accordance with the direction of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, as we are of the view that the affidavits so filed, as mentioned above, do not meet the requirements of the Hon'ble Supreme Court."
The court granted the Government of Arunachal Pradesh four weeks' time to take necessary steps in the matter.