On April 19, the Supreme Court, hearing a petition filed in 2006 in which directions were passed to states to remove encroachment, including places of worship from public places, expresses its concern over inaction of authority for permitting the existence of encroachment as worship – place on roads and pavements across the country. The bench comprising Justice V Gopala Gawda and Arun Mishra observed: “You have to demolish such structures. We know that you are not doing anything. You have no right to allow it. God never intended to obstruct the path. But you are obstructing the path. It is an insult to God.”
The SC has issued warning to Chief Secretaries of the States and the Union Territories of serious consequences if they did not follow its order in letter and spirit directing removal of religious structures which came up on pavements and public land after 1 September 2011.
In September 2011, the SC had said that it had embarked on the exercise mainly to make sure that “hence forth no public land, public park, or public street is encroached for constructing religious structures.”
According to the Order of September 2011 of the Supreme Court all collectors and district magistrates in the entire country were commanded to meticulously make sure that no further land is encroached in their respective districts; they had to make sure that no commercial activity is carried out from unauthorized structures on public land.
The districts magistrates were also instructed to send and submit their reports every month to the Chief Secretary of the State about fresh encroachment and the latest states of the existing encroachment. After getting the reports from the district magistrates, the Chief Secretaries were to file affidavits before the court once in a three month on regular basis.
However, none of the states have compiled with SC’s interim orders and were taking the matter very lightly by demanding time to file even the court mandated quarterly status report.
Causes of Concern for SC
The SC has expressed its concern by showing its anguish openly because it is worried that individual or groups inflicting encroachment on public places by setting up a place of worship, is becoming a rampant problem everywhere in India. Within this context, it is heartening as well most welcome that the Supreme Court has taken such a tough stance to establish sanity in Indian Society and among Indian Citizens.
Solution, The Way Ahead
Governments of all states and the Union Government too, must act promptly, immediately and sternly to send the message loud and clear that such encroachment on public places shall not be tolerated at any cost or on any ground or plea.
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