SC upholds Uttarakhand’s order to demolish 4 illegal religious structures in Haridwar

The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the time period for the Uttarakhand government to demolish the four illegal religious structures built on public land in Haridwar till May 31, 2021.

“Kumbh Mela is to commence in 2021 and will end on 15th April 2021, we are of the view that the State should be permitted to demolish the illegal structures by 31st May 2021,” the apex court bench headed by Justices Ashok Bhushan observed in its order.

Representing Uttarakhand government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the State has undertaken the task to commence proceedings for the demolition of the four illegal structures in Haridwar and will definitely remove them by 31 May.

An intervention application filed by ‘Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad’ was considered by the bench comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah. The application asked for the structures to not be demolished. However, the court, in its order, observed that the intervenor does not dispute that structures have been made on the land that belongs to the Irrigation Department. It states that the lands are allocated during the ‘Kumbh’ period to the Parishad.

“Be that as it may, allotment if any, is temporary and any permanent structure could not have been constructed and the same is to be demolished,” the three-judge bench observed.

The court order defined the details of the four illegal structure as – Nirmohi Akhada, Beragi Camp, Nirmani Adi Akhada, Bhaiyadas Digamber Akhada, and Niranjani Akhada, Gangeswar all at Beragi Camp in Haridwar.

The state government had filed a request to the Supreme Court against the order of Uttarakhand High Court dated October 8 which refused to extend the time till the climaxing of ‘Kumba Mela-2021’ for demolishing the structures at Haridwar.

The High Court had taken a suo moto cognizance of the issue after apex court’s order dated December 7, 2009, in which it was directed that no illegal construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of a Temple, a Church, a Mosque or a Gurdwara etc. on public streets, public parks or other public places.

On January 31, 2018, the top court had observed that the implementation of its 2009 order should be supervised by the High Courts concerned, and abrogated the matter to the respective High Courts for ensuring the effective implementation of the orders.

Complying with the 2009 order of the apex court, the Uttarakhand state government framed a policy on May 17, 2016, named ”The Uttarakhand Policy for Removal, Relocation, and Regularization of Unauthorized Religious Structures on Public Streets, Public Parks, and other Public Places, 2016”.

The Uttarakhand High Court on January 2, 2020, while hearing a suo motu case, had noted that the policy decision of the Uttarakhand government which was taken on May 17, 2016, had remained unimplemented for more than three and a half years since it was passed.