DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand High Court on Monday reserved the judgment on public interest litigation opposing the formation of 'Char Dham Devsthanam Board' to govern Char Dham and 51 other temples of the state alleging that the state government is trying to take over the temples which is a violation of Constitutional rights of the priests.
Manisha Bhandari, counsel for the petitioner said, "After hearing our pleas and arguments, the honorable court has reserved the judgment. I hope we will soon get the certified copy."
The PIL was filed by Bhartiya Janta Party leader Subramanian Swamy in February 2020 alleging that the actions of the state government make a mockery of the constitutional principles and abuse of the legal process.
The BJP MP requested the court to declare the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019 'Unconstitutional' which was passed in Uttarakhand legislative assembly in December 2019.
As the hearing for the matter was on, an intervener application was filed by Dehradun based non-government organization Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK).
Dr. Kartikey Hari Gupta, counsel for the NGO said, "We argued before the honorable court that the petitioner has no right to be protected by Article 26 (d) because under Article 26 (d) only, the petitioner can claim administration of such property which have been established by them. Since the petitioner does not claim that any religious denomination had any right to administer which was infringed by this Act. Article 26 protects the right of the religious denomination to administer property."
Swamy furthering the allegations in his petition also added that the entire scheme and context of the Act negates any freedom or autonomy in the religious communities or denominations to administer or manage the temple.
The petition also added that the government is in violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens and denominations including Hindu Citizens and denominations under Articles 25, 26, and 29(1) of the Constitution of India.
Swamy, in his petition, said, "The actions of the state government make a mockery of the constitutional principles and abuse of the legal process and statuary power and vitiated by malafide and extraneous considerations."
Interestingly, Uttarakhand is governed by the BJP which won 57 seats in 2017 state assembly elections.