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State's Duty To Remove Unauthorised Religious Structures Constructed On Public Land : Delhi High Court

Nupur Thapliyal
16 March 2022 9:30 AM GMT
States Duty To Remove Unauthorised Religious Structures Constructed On Public Land : Delhi High Court
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Emphasizing that the State authorities remain duty bound to remove all unauthorised constructions on public land, the Delhi High Court has said that the mere fact that such encroachments represent religious structures, a place of worship or are given colour of a religious structure cannot detract or dilute the authorities from that obligation.Justice Yashwant Varma was dealing with a...

Emphasizing that the State authorities remain duty bound to remove all unauthorised constructions on public land, the Delhi High Court has said that the mere fact that such encroachments represent religious structures, a place of worship or are given colour of a religious structure cannot detract or dilute the authorities from that obligation.

Justice Yashwant Varma was dealing with a petition concerning the encroachments made on a public pathway in city's Rani Jhansi Road. 

The counsel appearing on behalf of the Delhi Government apprised the Court that the Religious Committee, constituted in terms of a Government Circular dated 05 May 2014, had addressed a communication dated 07 December 2021 to the concerned Corporation. It was submitted that further information and inputs in order to assess the steps liable to be taken were awaited. 

The Counsel appearing for the municipal corporation concerned submitted that the requisite information was duly transmitted by that authority and that in any case anything still remains, it shall provide all further information as may be sought by the Committee. 

On the other hand, the counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that the stand taken by the respondents clearly showed the apathy and failure to remove the structures which were admittedly unauthorised.

The Court noted that it was not disputed that the said structure in question albeit of a religious character existed on a public land.

At the outset, the Court referred to an order passed by Justice Rekha Palli in December last year wherein the Court had directed the Delhi Government to remove a temple, alleged to be illegally constructed on a public land in city's Defence Colony area. 

The single judge was of the view that the circular constituting the religious committee did not state that demolition should not take place even if the same is contrary to the orders passed by a competent court of law. 

Accordingly, the Court observed thus:

"As this Court reads the Circular of 05 May 2014 as well as the observations entered in W.P.(C) 10949/2021, it is manifest that the state respondents remain duty bound to remove all unauthorised constructions which may exist on public land. The mere fact that those encroachments represent religious structures, a place of worship or are given the colour of a religious structure cannot possibly detract or dilute from that obligation."

The Court added that a conjoint reading of the said Circular as well as the decision of the Single Judge makes it evident all that the Circular intends to achieve is to ensure that the removal of encroachments is conducted in a structured manner and untoward incidents or a law and order situation being created avoided.

"The contents of that Circular also cannot be read as tempering the primal obligation of the respondents, namely to remove all unauthorised constructions, religious or otherwise," the Court added.

The counsel appearing for the Delhi Government stated that appropriate action shall be taken within a period of three weeks and that a status report will also be submitted before the Court. 

Accordingly, the matter is now listed on April 8. 

Case Title: KINGS FURNISHING AND SAFE CO v. THE COMMISSIONER & ORS

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 209

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