AHMEDABAD: In a major blow to the Narendra Modi government, the Gujarat High Court today censured it for "inaction and negligence" during the 2002 post-Godhra riots, holding that this had resulted in an "anarchic" situation.
Passing strictures against the state government, the court said, "Gujarat Government's inadequate response and inaction (to contain the riots) resulted in an anarchic situation which continued unabated for days on".
A division bench of acting chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala made these observations, while ordering compensation for over 500 religious structures damaged in the state during that period.
"The state cannot shirk from its responsibilities," the court observed while noting that there has also been "negligence" on the part of the government. "Because of this (such inaction and negligence) there was largescale destruction of religious properties".
The government was responsible for repair and compensation of such places, it further said.
The court said that when the government had paid compensation for destruction of houses and commercial establishments, it should also pay compensation for religious structures.
The court also ordered that principal judges of 26 districts of the state will receive the applications for compensation of religious structures in their respective districts and decide on it. They have been asked to send their decisions to HC within six months.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG).
Over 1,200 persons were killed in the post-Godhra riots that had left a trail of destruction in several parts of the state.
IRCG's petition in 2003 had sought court's directions to the government to pay compensation towards damage of religious places during riots on the ground that the National Human Rights Commission too had recommended and the state government had in principle accepted the suggestion.
The state government had opposed the petition, contending that it was a violation of fundamental rights under article 27 of the Constitution which restrains government from imposing any tax for promotion of a religion.
The government further said that there was no policy with regards to compensation for restoration/repair of religious places damaged or destroyed during the riots.
Lawyer for IRCG, M T M Hakim hailed it as a "landmark judgement" in the country, in which compensation has been ordered for destruction of religious structures.
"This is also probably for the first time that a court has held the state government responsible for inaction and negligence during the 2002 riots," Hakim told PTI.
In Delhi, Congress general secretary B K Hariprasad said, "right from the Supreme Court to any court, as far as the riots and fake encounters are concerned, Modi has been indicted."
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, "we are perusing the High Court order" and would respond after doing so.