Gujarat High Court: In a suo motu cognizance of the demolition drive by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation for removal of purported religious structures encroaching upon public space, the Division Bench of Sunita Agarwal, CJ and Aniruddha P. Mayee, J. directed the State to file an affidavit on the unauthorized religious structures.
On 15-12-2022, the State was directed to file an affidavit indicating the number of religious structures constructed over the public space and the steps taken for removal of unauthorized religious places.
The Court noted that in compliance with the Court’s order, an affidavit dated 09-1-2023 was filed by the Secretary, Home Department. A list of unauthorized religious structures was identified in the affidavit as on 31-12-2010. The Court also noted the action contemplated against the unauthorized religious structures/ encroachments between 31-12-2010 to 30-09-2022. The Court noted that out of total unauthorized constructions, the action was taken with respect to only 23.33 per cent of them. The Court said there was no clarity as to whether the action was contemplated or taken against them.
Regarding the manner in which the affidavit was filed, the Court noted that no details were given in the affidavit regarding the nature of action taken in the matter of removal of unauthorized constructions. The Court also said that the statement in the affidavit that ‘the petition be disposed of by this Court as the action plan which has been conceived by the State Government will take care of any further encroachment’, was wholly uncalled for. The Court also said there was information on the compliance of the policy issued by the Government vide Resolution dated 16-07-2022.
Hence, the Court directed the Secretary, Home Department to file further affidavit in strict compliance of the directions contained in the order dated 15-12-2022 which was issued in view of the Supreme Court’s directions passed on 16-02-2010 in Union of India v. State of Gujarat1, to formulate policy for the removal/relocation/regularisation of the unauthorized construction of religious nature on public streets, public parks and public places.
The matter was further listed for hearing on 27-02-2024.
[Times of India v. State of Gujarat, R/Special Civil Application No. 9686 of 2006, Order dated: 06-02-2024]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the petitioner: Advocate PR Abichandani
For the respondents: AGP Utkarsh Sharma, Trivedi & Gupta, HS Munshaw, Pranav G Desai, Nanavati & Nanavati
1. Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 8519/2006.