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Building a temple is another way to grab govt land: Gujarat High Court rejects petition against demolition of a temple for building road

The court noted that the land on which the temple is situated is not owned by the appellants, it was built on public land.

The Gujarat High Court recently pronounced that building a temple was an additional method of seizing public land, in response to a plea to save a temple that was in proximity to a road’s development. On 29th February, the Chief Justice of the high court stated that “this is how people emotionally blackmail everyone” in response to the passionate pleading of the residents to spare a temple from demolition in order to make space for a public road under a town planning project in Chandlodia in Ahmedabad.

Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal further said, “Building a temple is another way of grabbing public land in India.” The case centres on a challenge filed by ninety-three Chandlodiya households against the proposed Town Planning (TP) project which aims for the construction of a public road. They appealed before the division bench after one judge bench rejected their opposition to the plan.

The appellants’ submission was to preserve a temple along the proposed road as they highlighted their emotional attachment to the holy place because the entire community had contributed to its construction. Notably, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had already promised them that no homes would be destroyed. The court noted that the land on which the temple is situated is not owned by the appellants, it was built on public land.

The chief justice remarked, “I must stay that this is how you emotionally blackmail everyone. You encroach upon public property. And this is happening everywhere.” She noted that the petitioners are not in possession of the property where the temple is located and added, “By saying that the temple will be removed, you are trying to cash in on emotions (claiming that people will be affected).”

The judge then went into further detail about how to defend unauthorized buildings by attempting to turn homes into temples. “You put up some signs outside the house and make it a temple. This is another way of land grabbing in India.” The panel of Chief Justice and Justice Aniruddha Mayee upheld the temporary protection against demolition in its interim ruling. The date of the next hearing is scheduled for 14th March.

The court further suggested that the deity has high significance for the appellants, the deity can be shifted to some other place, including their houses. “Deity would be shifted somewhere. Deity can be kept in a temple with all dignity, all decorum which is needed for the deity. Then you give one room in your house for the temple if you have so much of … you must spare one room. Temple does not belong to you,” the court said. ​​​​​​​

The appeal was filed by the residents of  Raykanagar society in Chandlodia, challenging the decision to demolish a part of a temple in the society to construct a public road.

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