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The Delhi High Court has dismissed a suit filed by a temple manager who sought a permanent injunction against the Delhi Development Authority from forcefully dispossessing him from 4 temple properties built on public land.

The bench headed by Justice Prathiba M Singh expressed ‘grave concern’ over encroachment of public land ‘under the shelter of a place of worship’, citing that it has been seen in a large number of cases that people claim rights over government land under the garb of temples or other places of worship.

“The authorities have an obligation to ensure that in public land, places of worship are not created in this manner. Moreover, in the present case, an infrastructure project is being completely crippled due to the pendency of this litigation. This would be contrary to even public interest,” the court said.

Further, while referring to the Supreme Court judgment in Union of India vs. State of Gujarat and Ors., the bench stated that the Apex Court has, in fact, taken cognizance of this menace and directed the State Governments and Union Territories to review the situation and take appropriate action in an expeditious manner. She also quoted the relevant extract of the judgment, which states, “As an interim measure, we direct that henceforth no unauthorized construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of a temple, church, mosque or gurdwara, etc. on public streets, public parks or other public places, etc. In respect of the unauthorized construction of religious nature which has already taken place, the State Governments and the Union Territories shall review the same on a case-to-case basis and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible.”

The court reiterated that “Such attempts by unscrupulous parties ought to be discouraged, in as much as the occupants, under the garb of a place of worship, turn the land into a completely unplanned encroachment by hundreds of people. This trend has been repeatedly frowned upon by the Supreme Court and other courts.”

Therefore, the court went on to dismiss a suit seeking to permanently restrain the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) from demolishing four temples located at New Patel Nagar here.

While citing that the land in question was public land and the plaintiff was not entitled to any relief, the court imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on him to be deposited with the High Court of Delhi (Middle Income Group) Legal Aid Society.

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