SC rejects plea to halt demolition of Pracheen Shiv Mandir

The HC had observed that the land in dispute is meant for larger public interest and the petitioner society cannot claim any vested rights to continue to occupy and use it.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaFile Photo | PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Delhi High Court order to demolish Pracheen (ancient) Shiv Mandir, situated at Geeta Colony close to the Yamuna floodplains, after noting that there was no proof of the temple’s history to begin with.

A two-judge vacation bench of the top court, headed by Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Augustine George Masih refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court order.

While refusing to entertain the appeal filed by the petitioner, Pracheen Shiv Mandir Avam Akhada Samiti (PSMAAS), the apex court said, “Where is the proof of Pracheen temple to begin with? Ancient temples were built with rocks and not with cement.”

The petitioner, PSMAAS, had moved the apex court and challenged the HC order, claiming that the temple acts as a hub of spiritual activities, drawing around 300 to 400 devotees every day.

Represented by Advocate Kamlesh, the society asserted that Article 25 of the Constitution of India ensured the freedom of religion for all citizens, including the liberty to manage religious matters.

“Temples and places of worship held profound religious significance for diverse communities, and their protection constituted a fundamental aspect of preserving the right to religious freedom.”

Advocate Kamlesh argued that regular congregations at the temple facilitated interpersonal connections, fostering social ties, mutual assistance, and solidarity during both joyous and difficult times.

"Festivals and religious observances at the temple provided opportunities for collective involvement, enhancing community cohesion and distinctiveness.”

The society contended that no formal written notice or order was served. Instead, the devotees were verbally informed that their Pracheen Mandir would be demolished the following day, with the explanation that another temple was being demolished on that day. The apex court, however, find no merit in the PSMAAS plea and rejected it.

The HC in its order had said the petitioner society has miserably failed to show any documents with regard to its title, right or interest over the land and there is no proof of the temple having any historical significance.

In its plea, the petitioner claimed that the society was registered in 2018 to uphold transparency, accountability and responsible management of the temple’s assets. But the same was not taken into consideration by the apex court.

While refusing to entertain the plea, the HC had observed that the land in dispute is meant for larger public interest and the petitioner society cannot claim any vested rights to continue to occupy and use it.

“The land falls under the Zonal Development Plan for Zone-’O’ as approved by the Ministry of Urban Development,” the HC had said in its order.

Justice Sharma had further observed that the mere fact that prayers are offered at the temple every day and there are special events on certain festive occasions, would not convert the temple in question to a place of public significance.

It also said that Lord Shiva would be happier if the Yamuna riverbed and floodplains were cleared of all encroachments and unauthorised construction

It had further instructed that the Delhi Development Authority shall be at liberty to demolish the unauthorised construction, and the petitioner society and its members shall not cause any impediment or obstacles in the demolition process.

The Akhada Samiti then moved the Supreme Court against the same.

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