Recently, on the 24 February, Justice Prathiba M Singh, of the Delhi High Court observed that places of worship cannot encroach public land and hinder developmental activities meant for larger segment of the public.
She made the observations while paving the way for the demolition of portions of a Mandir and a Masjid situated in Jheel ka Piao in ITO Area, Delhi for making pedestrian pathway uniform.
It was observed by the court that the Public Works Department has to be permitted to make the pedestrian pathway uniform, so that it may not cause any inconvenience to the pedestrians on the busy stretch of the road which also provides access to Metro Station.
She observed, “for the said purpose if some portion of the Mandir/Masjid has to be broken/demolished, the same would have to be permitted by the Court”.
Herein the court was hearing a plea filed by caretakers of Sanatan Dharam Mandir or Prachin Shiv Mandir, challenging a letter dated 31 October, 2022 issued by the Delhi Government’s Executive Engineer.
It was stated in the letter that encroachments and unauthorized occupation be removed from PWD land, including the Mandir.
The petitioner argued that the temple had not illegally encroached and its removal would cause inconvenience to the devotees.
Later in time, the Delhi Waqf Board was also impleaded in the matter, after it was brought to the notice of the court that a Masjid was also located adjacent to the Temple.
The counsel of the Delhi Government placed on record various photographs to show that pedestrian pathway was being obstructed by both Mandir and the Masjid.
Perusing the photographs, the court noted that the issue that has been raised in the petition concerns development of pedestrian pathway in an extremely busy road near the ITO.
The court said that the line sketch filed by PWD shows that there is no uniformity in the pedestrian pathway and it needs to be made uniform and matched along with the pedestrian pathway across the entire stretch of the road, failing which pedestrian’s safety would be seriously affected.
Furthermore, it was noted that since the wall of both the Mandir and the Masjid are abutting the pedestrian pathway, the walls would be required to be demolished.
However, it added that if upon conferring with the said caretakers, there is need to make some fresh construction in order to secure the area of the Mandir and the Masjid, the same has to be done at the cost of the PWD.
It said that the PWD has to ensure that one toilet facility each for the Mandir and the Masjid will be provided with proper washing area. The area of offering prayers will be tiled by the PWD.
The Delhi Police was directed to provide all cooperation and necessary assistance to ensure that the directions of the court are implemented without any disturbance or law and order situation.
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