Gujarat not to aid rebuilding riot-damaged religious buildings

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gandhinagar, Jan 24 ((IANS) Making its policy clear on the issue of granting aid to religious structures damaged in the 2002 riots, the Gujarat government Monday told the state high court that it will not provide any financial aid to them.

The government pleader, P.K. Jani conveyed this to the first bench comprising Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice Akil Kureshi. He submitted that the subject was considered at the highest level and the government has decided to continue with its earlier decision not to grant aid as compensation to any religious institution damaged in the riots.

The government said in an affidavit that it was the policy of the government not to compensate damaged religious institutions. It also said that it neither provided any compensation for damages to the religious structures, which were damaged or destroyed in the 2001 earthquake, nor in case of the terror attack on the Akshardham Temple.

The court then questioned counsel to state whether or not there was any way to provide assistance by funding Wakf Boards, which may be able to provide assistance to such institutions from those funds. Counsel was, however, unable to answer the courts query.

On the other hand, counsel for the petitioner, who sought the court to direct the state government to compensate for the damage caused to religious structures in the riots, argued that the state failed to meet with its statutory obligation.

He argued that the state has constitutional obligation to protect the fundamental rights and to protect the religious identity. He argued that in any riots, the first attack would be on the religious identity such as religious structures.

He said if at all it was believed that the riots were beyond the control of the state government, then also it was the states duty to compensate the damages caused. If it failed to do so, it would be violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution, counsel argued.

After hearing the parties, the bench said that it was a high time for it to decide the matter either way as the issue was not addressed even after nearly eight years of the incident. The court has asked the parties to make written submissions and has now posted the matter for final hearing March 21.

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