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Can’t encroach land under garb of place of worship, says Delhi HC

The manager of a temple cannot claim the right to remain in possession forever, especially when the land is government land, said the court.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | December 22, 2020 6:56:37 am
Delhi HC, Road accident victim compensationThe high court's observations came while awarding compensation for loss of dependency to a woman, who lost her 23-year-old son in a road accident in 2008, and enhanced the award amount from Rs 2.42 lakh to Rs 6.80 lakh. (File)

The Delhi High Court has said authorities have an obligation to ensure places of worship are not created on public land, while dismissing with cost a petition seeking to restrain DDA from demolishing four temple premises in New Patel Nagar area or forcibly dispossessing their manager from there. The manager of a temple cannot claim the right to remain in possession forever, especially when the land is government land, said the court.

“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,” Justice Prathiba M Singh said in the order, while dismissing the petition by Bal Bhagwan with cost of Rs 1 lakh.

Bhagwan, who claims to be the chela of Late Swami Omkara Nand, in his petition said the four temples have been running since the 1960s and DDA attempted to forcibly take possession. However, the DDA called it an “illegal occupation” and said the land is meant for rehabilitation of Kathputli Colony dwellers and was vested with it by the Ministry of Resettlement and Rehabilitation in 1982. The land dispute is acting as a hindrance in implementation of the project meant for 3,000 dwellers, DDA said further.

It was also submitted before the court that the land in question is not more than one and a half acres and the four mandirs are in a very small portion of it, while the remaining part comprises a residence, shops and factories. “The land is used for commercial purposes, not for the purpose of mandirs,” the DDA argued in court, adding that huge revenue was being earned by collecting rent from occupants of the commercial shops and residences.

Justice Singh, in the ruling, said the entire area has no sanctioned plan and the plaintiff before court has conceded he has no document of title in respect of the property. The court also said Swami Omkara Nand also did not have any ownership of the land.

“In any case, the manager of the mandir cannot claim the right to remain in possession forever, especially when the land is government land. Even if the said possession is treated as settled possession, the same can only be protected against forceful taking of possession. The person in settled possession cannot question being dispossessed in accordance with law after due process has been followed,” the court further said in the order.

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