High Court Seeks Details of Public Land under Religious Structures

The High Court has sought details of public land on which religious structures have come up illegally by encroachment in J&K and Ladakh even as it expected a strict action to remove these encroachments. Although in the order dated 3.9.2020, divisional commissioners of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh were expected to submit the details, the division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar sought the information by October 1.

On 3.9.2020, the Court had directed the divisional commissioners to obtain from all the deputy commissioners the reports indicating all religious structures on public land, location of encroachment, area encroached and details of the encroacher.

The Court had said the information should be compiled within six weeks and placed before the Chief Secretaries of J&K and Ladakh. They, in turn in consultation with the concerned competent authorities, would take a policy decision to be placed before the Court by November 9. “But till date, no information has been placed before the Court,” the bench said while hearing on its motion a Public Interest Litigation.

The Court asked its Registry to find out the details of a similar PIL, which is still pending before the Jammu wing, and tag it with the petition on hand.

Advocate General D C Raina informed the Court that he was collecting the necessary information of the encroachments, which included the details from Jammu province and would furnish the same to it by October 1.

The Court granted the AG and T M Shamsi, ASGI appearing for the Union Territory of Ladakh, six weeks to furnish the desired information from the date on which it passed its order. “In the meantime, the authorities are expected to take strict action for removal of all illegal religious encroachments from public places,” it said.

Pertinently, the issue concerning religious structures on public land by encroachment on streets, parks, and other places had come up before the Supreme Court in 2009.
After considering a letter sent by the Union Home Secretary to the Solicitor General of India, the SC, in its order dated September 29 2009, had issued notices to all States and UTs after implementing them as a party in the PIL.

Meanwhile, the SC had said that “no unauthorized construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of temple, church, mosque or gurudwara on public streets, public parks or other public places.”

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