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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Gujarat HC dismisses plea challenging shifting of temple

The PIL moved which comprises 35 residents of Raja Mehta ni pol in Ahmedabad, with a view to “maintain heritage and culture”, represented by advocate Amit Panchal, had sought the court’s intervention in the proposed shifting of the 150-year-old temple in the cantonment area of Ahmedabad.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: June 19, 2021 1:32:52 am
Entry gate to 'Bala Hanuman Mandir' at Cantonment area in Ahmedabad. (Express Photo Nirmal Harindran)

The Gujarat High Court on Friday dismissed a public interest litigation concerning the proposed shifting of a 150-year-old hanuman temple in Ahmedabad, after the petitioners withdrew their plea.

The PIL moved by Tulja Yuvak Mandal, which comprises 35 residents of Raja Mehta ni pol in Ahmedabad, with a view to “maintain heritage and culture”, represented by advocate Amit Panchal, had sought the court’s intervention in the proposed shifting of the 150-year-old temple in the cantonment area of Ahmedabad.

The temple, along with its ‘swayambhu’ idol, that is a self-manifesting or self-existing idol, has been requested to be shifted to an “appropriate place at (Sabarmati) Riverfront,” by the temple trust, Shree Hanumanji Mandir Camp Trust, Ahmedabad, by way of a communication to the Cantonment Board in May this year. Following this communication, a letter was addressed by the pujari family to the temple trust opposing the transfer or shifting.

As per the petitioner organisation, such a unilateral decision to shift the temple and its idol would “hurt the religious sentiments of the pujaris of the temple and thousands of devotees/people visiting the temple.” It was also submitted in the petition that “devotees/people visiting the Hanumanji Temple are strongly objecting to the transfer…”

Taken up for hearing on Friday, a division bench of the Gujarat HC headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath, however, remained disinclined to entertain the petition as a final decision on the shifting had not been taken in this regard by the Cantonment Board and thus the court’s interference at this stage may be premature.

Following arguments by advocate Panchal, Chief Justice Vikram Nath said, “Anything happening inside the cantonment must have the approval of the authority… the authorities must be conscious of what is happening inside their campus… I’m also a Hanumanji bhakt and I’ve visited this temple and I’m told this is most powerful temple here in Ahmedabad… (but) let this (decision on shifting) happen all outside the court…”

Senior advocate Sudhir Nanavati, who was appearing as party-in-person as the president of the temple trust, said that the Sabarmati Riverfront phase 2 development involves parcels of land owned by the Cantonment Board and thus the temple trust requested land “…where we can shift the temple and the idol, for three main purposes.”

These three issues involve security concerns since the temple visitors may be a disturbance given the defence-related activities that the area involves. A second issue is that the current land where the temple is situated is on a leased land which not only requires paying a lease amount but also renewing the deed every 20 years. A third issue is that of traffic nuisance, especially on Saturdays, when visitors throng the temple.

“To avoid these problems, we requested the cantonment to permit us (to shift)…,” said Nanavati, while adding that one of the trustee-member, who is representing the pujari family in the trust, is also a signatory for the transfer. As per the communication of May 31 by the temple trust to the Cantonment Board, which was part of the petition, it was stated, “…after detailed discussion placed in the meeting of the Trust from time to time and lastly on the meeting held on 6.11.2020, the Temple of Hanumanji along with idol of Hanumanji is required to be transferred at some suitable place, which in the present circumstances, we suggest at Riverfront… Taking into consideration, all the other aspects, we all the trustees have decided to request the Authority of Cantonment Board that we are willing to transfer the Temple along with the Idol of Hanumanji after following all the religious procedures for the same, to any suitable place, for which we understand that the area which is at present developing is the Riverfront area, which also falls under the jurisdiction of the Cantonment Board and if the temple along with the Idol is transferred to suitable size of land at Riverfront after mutual discussion and consent of both the sides, then it will be giving relief to citizens and more particularly the followers…”

The communication further adds, “… However, please note that for transfer and/or the expense of new construction for the Temple, we as Trust would like to request the Board to consider our humble suggestion and to contribute any amount, if possible, which will help the Trust which is a Public Charitable Trust. However, at least for considerable parcel of land which may be considered and ultimately given at the Riverfront site, should be totally cost-free like one-rupee token charges etc. However, we state that at present the land occupied by Temple is on lease, which is renewed at every interval of 20 years and the Temple Trust is paying approximately about Rs 34,000 per annum.”

Pleader Manisha Shah argued that there was no cause of action for this PIL as no final decision with respect to the temple shifting has been taken. Over the course of hearing, Shah said, “There appears to be some internal dispute between the trust and the pujaris which is sought to be solved through this PIL…”

Additional solicitor general Devang Vyas, who was representing Union of India and the Cantonment Board authorities, also informed the court that with a decision pending on the application by the temple trust requesting for the shift, it will be “premature” to comment on the same before the court and he need not say anything “which ultimately may be perceived as a stand taken on an application which is yet to be considered.”

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