The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the States and Union Territories to formulate, within eight weeks, a comprehensive policy on removal, relocation and regularisation of unauthorised religious constructions.

A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and K.S. Radhakrishnan pointed out that in its December 7, 2009 order the States were asked to prevent unauthorised construction of temples, churches, mosques or gurdwaras in streets, parks or other public places. While the States filed affidavits stating that steps had been taken to prevent any future unauthorised construction, in respect of formulation of a policy for the existing unauthorised structures, most of them had not framed the guidelines.

Therefore, the Bench said, it had become imperative to direct the States and the UTs to formulate a comprehensive policy and to identify all unauthorised structures. The State should spell out within what period it would demolish/relocate/regularise the structures. The Bench directed the Chief Secretaries to file affidavits in this regard.

Tamil Nadu’s stand

In its response, Tamil Nadu said it had evolved a strategy for removing unauthorised structures at public places without hurting people’s sentiments. This “includes the process of identification, to relocate the said structure.” A high-level committee had been constituted under the chairmanship of the Revenue Minister to deal with eviction as well as to monitor the progress of eviction proceedings. The court’s orders had been communicated to all District Collectors and they were directed to strictly comply with the directions.

Andhra Pradesh said that as per a preliminary survey “there are about 647 religious structures on footpaths and road margins in the area of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation; 25 temporary structures which have recently come up and have low potential of creating a law and order problem and can be removed; 55 structures that can be removed by convincing the managements and local people, and 496 structures which are old, permanent and have a high potential of creating a law and order problem.” An action plan had been finalised to conduct a detailed survey and to take action as per law.

Both Karnataka and Kerala said strict instructions had been issued to the Collectors to strictly comply with the court direction that no unauthorised construction of any kind be carried out or permitted on public land. Similar affidavits were filed by other States.

The matter has been listed for further hearing on April 6.

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