Seeking the reconstruction of the Guru Ravidas Temple that was demolished by Delhi Development Authority two weeks ago, two Congress leaders have approached the Supreme Court.
The temple located at Jahapanah forest area in national capital was razed by the DDA on August 10 following the directions of the Supreme Court.
The writ petition filed by Ashok Tanwar (former MP from Sirsa and present President HPCC) and Pradeep Jain Aditya (former Jhansi MP and Minister of State in 2009 UPA cabinet) under Article 32 of the Constitution of India states that the demolition has resulted in the infringement of fundametal right to worship of the followers of Guru Ravidas, which is guaranteed under Article 25.
Guru Ravidas, a 16th century mystic sage, is venerated largely by Dalits in the regions of Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
As per the petition, the land where the temple was situated was donated to Guru Ravidas in 1509 by Sikander Lodi.
The land at the site is of utmost historical and religious importance to all followers of Saint Guru Ravidas as the Guru himself had lived at the site, states the petition. Therefore, the temple deserved special protection as a site of historical and religious significance. Land laws and DDA zoning regulations which came subsequently cannot apply to the temple, which had been in existence for about 600 years, the petitioners argue.
"It is submitted that the site itself is pious and has been worshipped for the last 500-600 years and is protected as per the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. The temple/Guru Dham and the adjoining structures had been present for the last 600 years and prior to any master plans or modern English law system that is now prevalent in India. Hence, no violation can be caused by a historical structure, which has come under green zone under laws which are subsequent to structure. The above temple/Guru Dham was in Jahapanah City Forest, which is actually an urban park where people go for morning walks."
Notably, the petition relies on the Allahabad High Cour's judgment in the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid case to argue that the temple site was a juristic person and that the divinity of land is inalienable and cannot be taken away.
The petition highlights the oppressed status of the followers of Guru Ravidas to argue that the temple site required special protection.
"... considering the fact that followers of Saint Guru Ravidas are Hindus from oppressed communities and have been historically discriminated, as a result of which they were given special constitutional protection through reservations. Teachings of Guru Ravidas are also a part of the Sikh religion and prescribed in Holy Guru Granth Sahib. Religious minorities like Sikhs, Jains etc. are given special educational and cultural fundamental rights under Article 26-29 of the Constitution. Thus, the Temple/Guru Dham deserves protection and not demolition action."
The petitioners state that the directions of the Court came in civil proceedings, in which the believers' fundamental right to worship was not considered.
The DDA had initiated eviction proceedings against the temple citing that it was situated on encroached public land. Claiming adverse possession of the land, a suit was filed by Guru Ravidas Jainti Samaroh Samiti - a registered Society managing the temple - seeking prohibitory injunction against DDA. The suit was dismissed by trial court.
The appeal filed in the Delhi High Court was dismissed by the single bench of Justice Valmiki Mehta on November 13, 2018, observing that the Society could not establish its rights over the land.
On April 4, 2019, the Special Leave Petition filed against the Delhi HC judgment was summarily dismissed by the SC bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha. The bench granted two months time to the Society to vacate the premises.
Noting that the Society has not vacated the premises, the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah issued stern directions on August 9 to DDA to forcefully demolish the structure the next day. On Augsut 10, the DDA executed the Court's orders.
The demolition led to massive public protests in various parts of the country. On August 14, the SC observed that the demolition should not be politicized.
"Don't think we are powerless. We know the seriousness of the issue," a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said when the counsel appearing for the Guru Ravidas Jainti Samaroh Samiti, referred to the agitation on the issue in Punjab.
"Don't speak a word and don't aggravate the issue. You are in for contempt. We will haul up your entire management. We will see what has to be done," the bench also comprising Justices M R Shah and Ajay Rastogi said while requesting Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist in the matter.
Amid protest from the community in his state, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had sought Prime Minister Modi's intervention to resolve the matter.
The national capital was taken by a massive Dalit gathering on August 21 demanding the reconstruction of the temple.