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'Willing To Give Place In Same Site For Reconstruction Of Guru Ravidas Temple', Centre Tells SC

18 Oct 2019 7:28 AM GMT
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In the case for reconstruction of Guru Ravidas Temple in Tughlakabad in Delhi, the Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it was willing to offer 200 square meters of plot in the same site where the temple had existed before its demolition.

Respecting the faith of the devotees of Guru Ravidas, Centre was ready to offer the space for temple reconstruction, submitted Attorney General K K Venugopal before the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.

The Court will pass orders in the matter on October 21.

On October 4, the bench had urged the parties to work out an amicable solution by exlploring alternate site for reconstruction.

It was the bench consisting of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah which had ordered on August 9 the demolition of the temple located at Jahapanah forest area in national capital. Following the directions of the SC, the Delhi Development Authority razed the temple on August 10, leading to massive Dalit protests in Delhi demanding its reconstruction.

After that, a writ petition seeking permission to reconstruct the temple was 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.

They submitted that the temple was a site of historic and cultural significance for the followers of Guru Ravidas, and that its demolition has resulted in the infringement of fundamental right to worship guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution.

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, stated 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 argued.

Notably, the petition relied 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 highlighted the oppressed status of the followers of Guru Ravidas to argue that the temple site required special protection.

The petitioners stated that the directions of the Court came in civil proceedings, in which the believers' fundamental right to worship was not considered.

Case background

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," the 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.

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