INDIA, July 22, 2020 (PGurus): In a big embarrassment to the ongoing “Free Temples from Govt. Control” movement, Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday ratified the State Government’s takeover of 51 temples including Kedarnath and Badrinath temples. The Bharatiya Janata Party is in power Uttarakhand. Upholding the controversial Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan, and Justice R. C. Khulbe, dismissed the Public Interest Litigation filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and Gangotri Mandir Samiti, challenging the constitutional validity of the Act passed by BJP Government in September 2019. However, the Judges “read down” the Sec 22 of the Act regarding the provisions of the land acquisition by the newly constituted body.
The court ruled that the ownership of the temple properties would vest in Char Dham shrines and power of the Board would be confined only to the administration and management of the properties. The High Court order stated: “Except to the limited extent that the words ‘shall devolve’ (regarding ownership of temple properties) in Section 22 (of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board Act, 2019) must be read as ‘devolve on the Char Dham and shall be maintained by the Board,’ and the words ‘may further acquire land’… shall be read as ‘may further acquire land on behalf of the Char Dham,’ the challenge to the validity of the 2019 Act, on the ground that it violates Articles 14, 25, 26 and 31-A of the Constitution of India, must fail … the properties of the Char Dham temples shall continue to vest in it, as declared in Section 4(2) of the 2019 Act … and the power of the Board would thereby be confined only to the administration and management of the properties of the Char Dham Devasthanam…”.
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