The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Uttarakhand Government time till May 2021 for the demolition of four illegal religious structures on public land in Haridwar.
A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy, and M R Shah declined to entertain an intervention application by Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parishad against the proposed demolition of illegal structures and stated that they have been classified as “unauthorized structures” as these were constructed without permission.
The four religious’ structures at Haridwar were built by Akharas connected to the Maha Kumbh. These include ‘Nirmohi Akhada’, ‘Nirmani Adi Akhada’, ‘Bhaiyadas Digamber Akhada’, and ‘Niranjani Akhada’ at Bairagi camp of Haridwar.
Meanwhile, the State of Uttarakhand contended that the land belongs to the irrigation department. It further averred that any attempt to demolish the structures at this stage would escalate religious tensions in the State, especially as deities were housed in the religious structures during the Kumbh.
Constructed in 2010, these structures are expected to be used during the Maha Kumbh held at Haridwar, which happens once every 12 years. It was submitted that the Maha Kumbh is to take place next between January 2021 and April 2021. Therefore, the state maintained that it would take time to clear all illegal structures in Haridwar, as many of them are used to host Kumbh Mela.
Earlier, the High court had taken suo moto cognizance of the issue as the state government had failed to comply with the 2009 orders of the apex court which directed the state governments to remove these structures. Later, the High court directed the state to demolish all these structures by March 23. The government, however, has been seeking an extension of time till the conclusion of Kumbh Mela, which the court had refused.
Aggrieved, the State moved the Supreme Court for relief and sought an extension to demolish these illegal structures, while pointing out that the Maha Kumbh will end by 15 April 2021.
“For the reasons given in the application and especially that ‘Kumbh Mela’ is to commence in 2021 and will end on April 15, 2021, we are of the view that the state should be permitted to demolish the illegal structures by May 31, 2021,” stated the Supreme Court bench on Thursday.