Supreme Court irked by Guj govt delay in Asaram Bapu case

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A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice P.C. Pant allowed the Gujarat government's appeal challenging the high court verdict that it should pay for reconstruction and fix works of religious structures damaged during riots.

A bench comprising justices N V Ramanna and Amitava Roy on Monday took note of the tardy process and said, "Why is there a delay despite the earlier direction for expeditious trial? Can it happen in a diversified country that a state is distributing public money to build religious places?" it said.

People or trusts claiming compensation for damages to religious structures would have to establish their ownership before district authorities. "The decision of the District Collector in this behalf shall be final", the policy said.

The court described Gujarat's scheme that capped compensation at a maximum of Rs 50,000 and the conditions therein as "quite reasonable", pointing out that the state had set the limit in accordance with limit set for damaged houses against which assistance was provided. The Apex court asked state government to provide compensation as per their fixed guidelines, and not as per high court order.

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The apex court dealt with various aspects and judgements and said, "we find the case hinges on its own facts regarding grant of compensation".

"The protection of property and places of worship is an essential part of secularism".

Article 27 forbids the state from compelling a person to pay taxes for promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

Acting on a PIL filed by NGO Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG), the HC had then directed the state and its functionaries to make a detailed survey of the religious places and institutions desecrated, damaged or destroyed during the period of a communal riot in the state in the year 2002. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state government, had told the court that it was willing to pay from the ex-gratia amount for the reconstruction of damaged shrines.

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