The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday sought response from the state government on a public interest litigation (PIL) over the setting up of Pavitra Yatradham Board by the state government, questioning the exclusion of other religions while promoting and funding temples belonging to the Hindu religion.
The PIL said that “secular state government is expected not to promote and maintain religious sites of a particular community and the taxes and proceeds collected by it from the citizens should not be spent over the promotion and maintenance of religious sites of a particular religion.”
The Division Bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi after a brief hearing asked the additional public prosecutor to take instruction from the government and respond.
The petition has been filed by one Mujahid Nafees, a resident of Juhapura. As per the PIL, the Gujarat government in 1995 through a resolution constituted “Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board” with an aim to provide amenities like lodging and boarding to pilgrims. The board used to be headed by chief minister as its chairman, and later on other ministries were also added.
According to the PIL, in August 1997, the government declared Ambaji, Dakor, Girnar, Palitana, Somnath and Dwarka as “pavitra yatradham” and Rs 24 lakh was earmarked for their development.
“The list has grown up exponentially since then, and now temples covered under the Pavitra Yatradham Board are around 358 in number,” the PIL stated.
It stated that the “list does not contain even a single religious shrine belonging to Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Christian, Buddhism, Zoroastrian or other religions”.
Saying that the Gujarat government’s action in choosing and promoting only one religion is unconstitutional, the petitioner said that the constitution of the board itself is “ex facie in contravention of the provisions of Constitution”, and it should be modified in order to include religious places of other faith as well.