Observing that the occupants of the dharamshalas and pujaris cannot claim a vested right to remain in city's Kalkaji Temple premises, the Delhi High Court has directed that such dharamshalas shall be vacated on or before 6th June, 2022.
Justice Pratibha M Singh, who was dealing with a bunch of pleas concerning redevelopment of the temple premises, added that in case of failure to comply with the direction, the concerned SHO shall take steps, in consultation with the Administrator, to evict the said pujaris and the dharamshala occupants.
"It is made clear that this would, however, not prejudice the rights of the dharamshala occupants and the pujaris to appear before the ld. Administrator and to give their suggestions/recommendations in respect of the redevelopment plan, as also, to make submissions as to the manner in which their interests ought to be accounted for in the overall redevelopment of the Kalkaji Mandir," the Court added.
The Court also said that the pujaris and the occupants of Dharamshalas have come into occupancy of the said premises with a view to render services to the deity and thus, claiming of such private individual rights on the said land is not permissible.
"The redevelopment of the Kalkaji Mandir premises is in the utmost interest of the lakhs of devotees who are visiting the Mandir. The same cannot be sacrificed for the private interest of the pujaris and the dharamshala occupants, some of whom are also using the same for commercial purposes as is recorded in the ld. Administrator's report. Be that as it may, the said occupants of the dharamshalas have already been permitted to appear before the ld. Administrator in order to give their suggestions and the manner in which their interests ought to be taken into consideration in the overall redevelopment of the Kalkaji Mandir," the Court observed.
The Court observed further that the the pujaris, being persons who are at best serving the deity, have no rights to remain in occupation of the premises and cannot be permitted to obstruct the process of redevelopment of the Kalkaji Mandir premises which is in the larger interest of the devotees.
The matter will now be heard on July 15.
Earlier, the Bench had directed the Delhi Police to proceed with the eviction of unauthorized occupants of jhuggis and dharamshalas present in the temple premises.
Importantly, the Supreme Court later refused to interfere in the plea challenging the eviction of the said unauthorized occupants of Jhuggis and Dharamshalas. However, it granted petitioner the liberty to approach the Administrator appointed by the High Court for redressal of grievances.
Previously, the Court had observed that wherein a land is being used for public purposes, if occupants of jhuggis or slums are evicted, it is the State's objective to provide them alternative accommodation after conduct of requisite surveys and collection of data.
While the Court had earlier clarified that none of the occupants who are in illegal occupation of the temple premises can remain in possession, it noted that there were some jhuggi dwellers and Dharamshala occupants who had not vacated the said premises.
Accordingly, the Court had directed the Delhi Development Authority, DUSIB and South Delhi Municipal Corporation to jointly undertake a survey of the temple premises and make a list of the number of occupants and the number of families who are still dwelling in the jhuggis as also in the Dharamshalas.
The Court had earlier directed the authorities including South Delhi Municipal Corporation, Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Police to ensure that it's orders are implemented in order to remove all illegal encroachers within the Kalkaji Temple premises, as per the deadlines given.
Previously, the Court had slew of directions regarding the administration and maintenance of the temple as also for resolution of disputes pertaining to the bari rights between baridaars to ensure smooth functioning of the temple.
It had expressed concerns over the "dismal" maintenance of the temple and had also asked the local commissioner to ascertain the collections/donations made to the Temple and check whether CCTV cameras installed inside its premises are operational.
It was reiterated that the reports submitted by previous Receivers and local commissioner showed that the cleanliness and maintenance of the temple complex was not satisfactory.
The Court had sought a report on the the creation of shops as well as the basic civic amenities available for devotees inside the temple premises. It directed the Court appointed architect to submit a comprehensive report after a meeting with administrator.
It had appointed a local commissioner for paying surprise visits in the Temple in respect of ascertaining conduct of 'puja sewa', collection of offerings being put in donation boxes and also other issues regarding cleanliness, hygiene and facilities for devotees.
Case Title: NEETA BHARDWAJ & ORS. v. KAMLESH SHARMA
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 541