Friday, August 31, 2012

SC admits state govt appeal against compensating shrines

HC Order Goes Against Constitution, Says Govt

The Supreme Court on Monday asked for all details that led to the Gujarat high court directing the state government to help repair and rebuild religious structures damaged in the 2002 communal riots.
    A bench of justice K S Radhakrishnan and justice Dipak Misra entertained the Gujarat government’s appeal against the February 8 high court order and asked the additional advocate general Tushar Mehta to place the entire documentation before the court by August 9.The high court had charged the state government with “inaction and negligence” in its order.
    Interestingly, the state objected to the high court order on the ground that it was contrary to the constitutional principle of secularism where no government could favour a particular religion. It said compensation to repair damaged religious structures could be akin to state’s help to a particular community.
    The bench issued notice to the voluntary organization Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat, which had filed a public interest litigation in the high court in 2003 with details of damages to 271 religious structures in 26 districts during the post-Godhra riots. The high court order had asked principal district judges in 26 districts to entertain applications seeking compensation for repair and reconstruction of religious structures. But it had clarified that additional constructions in the main structure would not be covered under the scheme.
    In its notice, the Supreme Court asked, “Is there a basis for grant of compensation? Has any study been done by state to assess the damage?”
    In its order, the high court bench of acting chief justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and justice J B Pardiwala had concluded that it was “inadequate endeavour” on part of the government to prevent riots. The bench had also asked the government to get the money for the compensation from those who had damaged the religious structures.
    The high court asked government to pay those who were incharge of the Islamic religious structures like mosques and shrines, including great Urdu poet Vali Gujarati’s tomb in Shahibaug. The judges concluded that if the government could give compensation to those who had lost houses and business establishments, it could not deny financial assistance to repair and rebuild religious places damaged in the riots.