20 Nov 2023 12:37 PM GMT
Relying on Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, the Allahabad High Court has given a nod to the development of the Vrindavan (Mathura) Banke Bihari Temple Corridor, a plan proposed by the Uttar Pradesh Government. The Government has further been directed to remove the encroachment in and around the templeThe Court has, however, restrained the UP Government from using...
Relying on Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, the Allahabad High Court has given a nod to the development of the Vrindavan (Mathura) Banke Bihari Temple Corridor, a plan proposed by the Uttar Pradesh Government. The Government has further been directed to remove the encroachment in and around the temple
The Court has, however, restrained the UP Government from using Rs.262.50 Crores from the bank account of Deity for the construction of the corridor.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justice Ashutosh Srivastava held
“We are not in agreement with the argument of the State Counsel that for construction of the Corridor, the funds deposited in the Bank belonging to the Deity may be permitted to be utilized. This amount of Rs.262.50 Crores lying in the Bank, shall remain untouched particularly as we have not adjudicated the inter se rights of the State viz a viz the Sevayats (Goswami Samaj) and the Government is free to utilize its own money for the secular activity of facilitating public interests.”
These directions have been issued in a PIL plea filed concerning crowd management along with the safety and security of pilgrims visiting Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan.
#BREAKING | #AllahabadHighCourt allows @UPGovt to proceed with its proposed plan to construct a #Corridor around the Banke Bihari temple in #Mathura, and remove encroachment over the approach roads (galis) to the Temple without hampering devotees' darshan of the deity. pic.twitter.com/Sc4GRphpWP— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) November 20, 2023
#BREAKING | #AllahabadHighCourt allows @UPGovt to proceed with its proposed plan to construct a #Corridor around the Banke Bihari temple in #Mathura, and remove encroachment over the approach roads (galis) to the Temple without hampering devotees' darshan of the deity. pic.twitter.com/Sc4GRphpWP
While dealing with the argument of the Goswamis regarding interference with temple management, the Court observed that there have been various untoward incidents in the temple and that “proper Darshan of the Deity is also at the whims and fancies of the Sevayats.”
The Court noted that due to difference in two sects of the Sevayats creates difficulties for the devotees to offer prayers and preform ‘puja’.
Accordingly, the Court held that
“We have no doubt in our minds that proper management of the Temples, pilgrimage centres religious places of great importance is a matter of public interest. These places are of undoubted, religious, social, historical and architectural importance, representing cultural heritage of our country. Millions of people visit these places not only for tourism but also for seeking inspiration for the righteous values and for their well being. They also make huge offerings and donations for advancement of such values.”
The Court held that in lieu of the principles of public health and morality enshrined in Article 25 and Article 26 of the Constitution of India, the State Government has to act in accordance with law for providing letter facilities to the devotees in and around the Temple premise.
Accordingly, the State was directed to implement the scheme placed before the Court.
“Human life cannot be put at stake just because somebody has objection. In our opinion, even the private Temples where devotees come for Darshan, safety of human life is required to be treated of utmost importance and the Government is bound to make necessary arrangements,” the Court noted.
Relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Gulam Abbas Vs. State of U.P. and others, the bench headed by Chief Justice Diwaker held
“Under the Constitution certain religious rights have been protected by Article 25 and 26 but these fundamental rights are not absolute and are subject to maintenance of public order. These restrictions find importance and have been specifically mentioned in Articles 25 and 26. Furthermore, no religious community denomination can claim that suggestion in the interest of public order, as per Article 25 and 26 can be destructive of their fundamental rights.”
The Court further issued directions to the State to take assistance from technical experts if necessary. The Court issued strict directions regarding encroachments on the approach roads to the temple after implementation of the Scheme. The state has been given the liberty to take action against any person creating such encroachments.
The Court clarified that “the Darshan of the devotees shall not be hampered in any manner, except for the implementation of the Scheme, during which appropriate alternative arrangements shall be made. The present Management along with all the stakeholders are directed to ensure that the Darshan of the devotees are not restricted in any manner and by anyone. The District Authorities are also directed to ensure strict compliance of the above directions and any act of violation shall be reported to this Court.”
Lastly, the Court observed that the rights of the parties and “such questions” were left open for consideration.
Background of the Scheme placed before the Court:
The Scheme for the development of the Temple area as a corridor requires the purchase of about 5 acres of land around the Temple for facilitating Darshan and Puja by the devotees, including provisions for parking area and other public amenities. The Court noted that the Scheme specifically records that there would be no interference of any kind in the Puja- Archana or Shringar carried out by the Goswamis. Further, it has been stated that the rights of the Goswamis shall not be affected.
Background of the PILs
As stated above, the HC is presently dealing with a bunch of PILs filed by devotees of Lord Krishna seeking directions for the management of public order in and around the Shree Thakur Banke Bihari Ji Mandir, Vrindavan.
In one of the petitions, it has been submitted that Swami Hari Das Ji, who established the temple, did not create any trust or endowment in favour of anyone. Goswami Onkar Nath and Goswami Phundi Lal proclaimed themselves to be the legal heirs and were entitled to do the Pramukh Seva of Thakur Ji.
The petitioner has contended that the judgment given in 1939 in a suit filed by Goswami Onkar Nath does not hold good in the present times. Other than the fact that the judgment records the fact that there is no trust or endowment in favour of anyone.
Further, various disputes between Goswami and their heirs and various criminal cases against the Goswami have also been brought on record.
The petitioner has specifically pleaded before the Court that due to the lack of management inside the temple, it becomes difficult for the devotees to offer their prayers. The petitioner has also brought forward specific instances where devotees had died due to the unmanaged crowd. It has been contended that the inaction by the State and its authorities is violative of Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
Accordingly, it has been prayed that the Court may issue directions of the State for framing the proper scheme of maintenance of the temple and for facilitating proper darshan of Thakur Ji to protect the rights of the citizens under the Constitution of India.
An intervention application has been filed by about 250 shopkeepers and residents of the area against the proposed expansion plan by the State. It is their case that ‘Kunj Galis’ are sacred galis where Lord Krishna and Radha Rani still carry on their ‘leelas’.
According to the intervenors, there are two temples which are protected by the Archeological Survey of India, in the vicinity of the main temple. Thus, it has been pleaded that no expansion construction can be done within 400 mts of such temples.
Petitioner's Counsels- Shreya Gupta , Anil Kumar Srivastava , Mayank , Pawan Kumar Singh , Ranjeet Asthana , Sanjay Goswami , Shashwat Kishore Chaturvedi and Sr. Advocate
Respondent's Counsel - C.S.C. , Amit Mahajan , Arvind Kumar Upadhyay , Ashutosh Gupta , Dharmendra Singh Chauhan , Rajeev Goswami , Saiful Islam Siddiqui , Shashi Kant Shukla , Shashi Shekhar Mishra , Tahira Kazmi and Utkarsh Birla
Case Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (AB) 442