DCs had been told to demolish at least one illegal religious structure every week in every taluk

Activists of Hindu groups gathered near Mysuru palace on September 16, 2021 to protest against the demolition of Mahadevamma temple in Hucchagani in Nanjangud taluk of Mysuru district, and the drive to clear unauthorised religious structures in public places.   | Photo Credit: SRIRAM M.A.

The drive against unauthorised religious structures in public places in Mysuru district, which has drawn the ire of pro-Hindutva organisations and politicians cutting across party lines as well as devotees, is in compliance of directions by Chief Secretary P. Ravi Kumar to Deputy Commissioners to ‘demolish/relocate/regularise’ illegal structures in line with the Karnataka High Court’s repeated directions to the State government. This, in turn, flows from a Supreme Court order of 2009 in this regard.

In a letter dated July 1, 2021 from the Chief Secretary to Deputy Commissioners, district administrations were ‘directed to prepare and execute an action plan from July 15, 2021, for demolishing at least one illegal religious structure per taluk every week’.

All urban local bodies too were directed to prepare an action plan from July 15, 2021, to demolish at least one illegal religious structure per division every week.

A monthly compliance report is to be submitted to the Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department, Bengaluru, by the 7th of every month.

What SC said

On September 29, 2009, the Supreme Court had directed that henceforth no unauthorised construction should be permitted in the name of temple, mosque, church or gurudwara on public streets, public parks or other public places, and directed State governments and Union Territories to review the unauthorised construction of religious nature, which had already taken place on public streets, public parks and other public places, on ‘a case-to-case basis’ and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible. Chief Secretaries, in consultation with the respective State governments, were directed to frame a policy with respect to unauthorised construction of religious nature that existed prior to September 2009.

Also, High Courts were asked to supervise implementation of the Supreme Court’s order in an effective manner. Karnataka High Court, which had taken up the matter several times, had issued directions to the State government on unauthorised religious structures in public places from time to time.

HC’s directions

In October 2019, the High Court pointed out that the Karnataka government had failed to abide by the 10-year-old directions of the Supreme Court while directing the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit on a time-bound programme to enforce the same. The court had also directed the then Chief Secretary to give reasons for not abiding by the directions.

In a December 2020 order, the High Court directed the Karnataka government to implement the Supreme Court direction in ‘letter and spirit’, and give necessary directions for identification of unauthorised structures and ascertain if they were built before the apex court’s September 2009 order.

The process of identification of unauthorised religious structures was being carried out at taluk level in each district and was in varioud stages of implementation when demolition of the Mahadevamma temple in Hucchagani in Nanjangud taluk of Mysuru district sparked off a wave of protests.

Objection by politicians

BJP MP Pratap Simha criticised demolition of the temple in Nanjangud. Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah criticised the BJP government for pulling down the place of worship without consultations. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) working president R. Dhruvanarayan, who is also a former MP representing Chamarajanagar which includes Nanjangud Assembly segment, pointed out that the government should have considered relocation of the old temple.


Demolition drive halted

Karnataka has temporarily halted the demoition drive with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai making it clear that the government will discuss the matter in the Cabinet and come up with a fresh set of guidelines.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 12:50:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/dcs-had-been-told-to-demolish-at-least-one-illegal-religious-structure-every-week-in-every-taluk/article36531020.ece

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