SRINAGAR, July 4: The High Court has asked the Government to explore the possibility of having a uniform legislation governing the places of worship and sought a report from Deputy Commissioner Baramulla with regard to encroachment on temple land.
The direction has been passed by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar in a petition filed by one Ranjeet Gurkha through his advocate Salih Pirzada submitting that a temple to which he is looking after since long is being encroached upon.
He is seeking management of the temple property in terms of provisions of J&K Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation and Restrain on Distress Sales) Act 1997. Upon calling Advocate General in the matter, he informed the court that a public interest relating to the preservation of temple properties and places of worships is pending in the court and submitted that the instant matter may be taken up along with that PIL.
Meantime, Court directed the AG to explore for uniform legislation governing the places of worships. Court also directed the Deputy Commissioner to submit a report by Monday i.e July 5 mentioning therein as to whether any land of the temple in question at Gulmarg has been encroached upon and is in unauthorized possession of any third party.
The petitioner submitted before the bench that a Shiv temple located at Gulmarg is exposed to encroachment by the Gulmarg Development Authority and the Deputy Commissioner Baramulla being the custodian of the Migrant Property in the district has failed to discharge the duties in preserving the property under Migrant Act.
It has been submitted that after demarcation by the authorities, the Municipal Counsel Gulmarg has constructed a structure on the southern side of the temple and the GDA has gone ahead of their powers by taking the temple land without any authority of law.
High Court in Re-suo moto proceedings about which the AG informed the court has already directed for identification of all illegal religious encroachments in J&K and Ladakh and placing the said information before the Chief Secretaries of both UTs in order to make a policy decision in this regard.
The court directed the Divisional Commissioners of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to obtain a report from all the Deputy Commissioners of all the illegal religious structures which have come up by way of encroachment on public land, with Location of encroachments, area encroached and details of the encroacher.
Court directed the said exercise shall be compiled by the Deputy Commissioners within six weeks and be placed before the Chief Secretaries of both UTs of J&K and Ladakh. Chief Secretaries have been directed to consider the matter by all the concerned and competent authorities and take a policy decision on the issue.
DB sought the policy decision taken by the CSs be placed before the court on next date of hearing. The matter is taken by the court on the directions of Supreme Court with respect to removal of illegal religious structures on public land. Supreme Court had impleaded all States and the UTs as party respondents in the matter.
Supreme Court has directed that no unauthorized construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of Temple, Church, Mosque or Gurdwara etc on public streets, public parks etc. “In respect of the unauthorized constructions of religious nature which has already taken place, the State Governments and the UTs shall review the same on case to case basis and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible”, Supreme court directed.
To ensure the implementation of directions of Supreme Court, the matter has been directed to be remitted to concerned High Courts for its supervision. “The High Court will have the jurisdiction to proceed in the contempt of any of the orders passed by this Court”, the Supreme Court mentioned.
The High court has also sought the records of courts orders passed by the apex court as also its proceedings be provided to Chief Secretary to ensure compliance. Court said the CSs of the States and Administrators of UTs were directed to review the aforesaid encroachments on the case to case basis and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible but nothing has been filed till date.
Court directed the Registrar General to take steps for obtaining the copy of petition and other relevant records from the Supreme Court by or before next date of hearing.