DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand high court on Tuesday issued notices to the Centre, Uttarakhand state government and chief executive officer of 'Char Dham Devsthanam Board' over the newly framed law to govern Char Dham and 51 other temples of the state.
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy had filed a public interest litigation on Monday alleging the state government is trying to take over temples which is a violation of the Constitutional rights of the priests.
Swamy also appeared in the HC to argue the case.
Manisha Bhandari, counsel for the petitioner, told The New Indian Express, "The honourable court has granted three weeks of time to the respondents to file their responses in the matter on the implementability of the law."
Reacting to the queries about the HC notice, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said, "We will provide whatever is asked by the honourable court. Till date, we have not received any notice. As we have asserted earlier, no one's rights will be violated and no traditions will be encroached upon. The law simply aims for better management and providing good facilities to pilgrims from all over the world."
Interestingly, the CEO of the board was appointed only on Monday.
Advocate general SN Babulkar appeared on behalf of the state government and argued that the PIL is 'politically motivated'.
"We argued that according to the PIL rule of the honourable high court, the petition is not maintainable. We will be filing our reply within the stipulated time period," said Babulkar.
Swamy in the PIL alleged that the actions of the state government make a mockery of constitutional principles and were an abuse of the legal process.
The petition also added that the government is in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens including Hindus under Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution of India.
"These provisions also violate Articles 13 and 14 and are violative of the dicta pronounced in the above-cited judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court," Swamy alleged in the petition.
The petitioner also stated that under the cloak of such legislation, Hindu temples and religious institutions are indiscriminately being taken over permanently and virtually run like government establishments.
Swamy further added that the entire scheme and context of the Act negates any freedom or autonomy for religious communities or denominations to administer or manage the temple.
On February 10, a four-member delegation of the priests' body had met Swamy and requested legal help in the matter.
After the act was passed in the Uttarakhand legislative assembly in December 2019, the Governor Baby Rani Maurya gave her assent for the act in January this year.