DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday dismissed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in February 2020 opposing the formation of 'Char Dham Devsthanam Board' under the law to govern Char Dham and 51 other temples.
The judgment by the division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe mentioning that the power of the legislature to make laws is plenary (absolute), stated, "The contention that the 2019 Act discloses the avaricious intent of the State to interfere with religious matters, and its intent to take over the properties of the temple given for worship, under the garb of secular activities, is devoid of merit."
The HC had reserved the judgment in the matter on July 6 which was pronounced on Tuesday.
The BJP leader had alleged that the actions of the state government make a mockery of the constitutional principles and abuse the legal process requesting the court to declare the 'Uttarakhand Char Dham Devsthanam Management Act 2019' unconstitutional which was passed in state legislative assembly in December 2019.
However, a slight change was made in Section 22 of the said law which is about the acquisition of land for the Char Dham, said Manisha Bhandari, counsel for the petitioner.
"We received the judgment today morning. It is being read and analyzed. We will make a decision after we have gone through the entire judgment," said Bhandari.
Dr. Kartikey Hari Gupta, Counsel for the intervener, Dehradun based non-government organization RLEK (Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra) said that it is a landmark judgment.
"Hon’ble Court has accepted our arguments. There is no unconstitutionality in the Act. The recent judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court – Marthand Varma v. State of Kerala given in the case of Padmanabh Swamy Temple Case is not applicable in the present case. In that case, the continuous management of the king and his successors was found out by the Court since the year 1686. In the case of Badrinath Temple, such continuous management of the king was broken in the year 1899 when the scheme of administration was made to govern these temples by the High Court of Kumaon. Presently no religious sentiments have been violated by this Act, only the secular management has been taken which is permissible in law," said Dr. Gupta.
Reacting to the court's judgment, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat said, "We welcome the decision of the honorable High Court in favor of Char Dham Devasthanam Board and state government. We are committed to safeguarding everyone's rights and traditions."
After the petition was dismissed Swamy took to Twitter indicating he might appeal further in the matter.
"I am awaiting the full judgment to be uploaded. Broadly some Sections appear to have been struck down, but the Act as such minus these Sections remains. Hence I have to approach the SC as in my earlier victories after losing in the HC e.g., Sabhanayagar Nataraj, 2G Spectrum cases," Tweeted Swamy.
I am awaiting the full judgment to be up loaded. Broadly some Sections appear to have been struck down, but the Act as such minus these Sections remains. Hence I have to approach the SC as in my earlier victories after losing in the HC e.g., Sabhanayagar Nataraj,2G Spectrum cases— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) July 21, 2020
Acknowledging the fact that the temples under the 2019 Act have a 'unique and distinctive history' which is not comparable with any other temple, the court in the judgment observed that in passing the Act, the legislature is not guilty of unconstitutional discrimination.
Rejecting the apprehensions of the petitioner that the government-appointed officials may act at their mere whim or adopt devious ways to remove the trustees, the court added that in such case, it is always open to them to approach the judiciary.
Further stating that any exercise undertaken by the court, to alter the composition of the board constituted under the law would amount to judicial legislation which "in view of the constitutional limitations imposed on the judicial branch of the state, is impermissible."
Elaborating the role of the judiciary the court said, "If it is, the Act must then be struck down and, if it is not, the High Court must refrain from interference even if it finds force in the submission that a better law could have been made, for Courts must, while examining the constitutional validity of an Act."
Furthermore, adding that legislation does not become unconstitutional merely because there is another view, the court stated, "The Legislatures discharge their legislative functions by virtue of the power conferred on them by the relevant provisions of the Constitution, and they function within the limits prescribed by the material and relevant provisions of the Constitution. The basis for the exercise of the plenary powers of legislation is the Constitution itself."
The court went on to say that it is only if the law violates any other provisions of the Constitution of India, only then intervention by the court would be justified.
"It is not for the Court to pronounce upon the wisdom or the justice, in the broader sense, of legislative acts. It can only examine whether they were validly enacted," the court order said.