The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed a 2012 order passed by the Gujarat High Court which instructed the state government to either compensate or fund the restoration of religious shrines which were destroyed during the 2002 Gujarat riots. These shrines which were mostly mosques were reportedly destroyed due to an alleged failure to maintain law and order.
The 2012 order by the Gujarat HC was based on a 2003 plea filed by a certain Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG). In this order the High Court had directed the state to pay actual compensation based on the district judges’ assessment of damage to over 500 shrines during the post-Godhra riots. This order was subsequently challenged by the state government.
The Supreme Court overturned the decision after the state government proposed that they would give the same compensation amount to the religious shrines which was given to residential and commercial properties, thereby treating them at-par with other properties.
This already prevelant compensation scheme involves paying a fixed amount of Rs 50,000 for any damaged property and would now be applicable to religious structures as well. According to the report, the Supreme Court had expressed reservations about the High Court’s judgement by asking as to would it be proper for a secular State to provide compensation for rebuilding places of worship.
The additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who represented the state government had cited article 27 to further his case which states that:
No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religions denomination
Incidentally according to reports, the Central government’s Home Ministry had during the trial told the apex court that the obligation regarding the case was to be fixed with the State government and it was answerable to the court as public order and policing are state subjects.