More than two months after the Guru Ravidas temple in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad forest area was demolished following the apex court order, the Supreme Court Monday accepted the Centre’s revised offer of 400 square metre land at the site for re-construction of the temple.
A bench of justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat was Monday told by Attorney General K K Venugopal that the Centre has revised its offer from 200 sq mt area for the temple to 400 sq mt keeping in view the faith and sentiments of the devotees.
“It is for the sentiments and faith of the devotees that we have revised it to 400 square metre,” Venugopal told the bench.
When the bench asked Venugopal as to who would manage the construction of temple, the Attorney General said the Centre would constitute a committee for this. The top court directed the Centre to constitute within six weeks the committee for construction of the temple in the area earmarked. It also made it clear that nobody would carry out any commercial activity in the area in and around the place earmarked for the temple.
The bench directed that persons, who were arrested during the agitations following the demolition of the temple, be released on furnishing of personal bond and said, “Let there be peace as the case has closed”. The top court said that the released persons will also have to furnish an undertaking to maintain good conduct.
The Centre had told the apex court last Friday that it was willing to hand over 200 sq mt land to devotees for construction of Guru Ravidas temple in South Delhi but with certain conditions.
Venugopal earlier said he had held consultations with all the parties, including devotees and government officials, and Centre has agreed to give the same piece of land considering the sensitivity and faith of devotees for the site.
During the hearing on Monday, the Attorney General told the bench that criminal prosecution has been launched against the person who was running the shrine earlier. When Venugopal said that the area in question is a “notified forest area”, one of the lawyers appearing in the matter said it might be de-notified as forest area.
The bench asked Venugopal as to what was the harm if some registered society would be handed over the land for construction of temple there. The Attorney General said earlier, the society which was managing the affairs there had indulged in commercial activities and parking space was operated for trucks and trollies.
“Our order will injunct them from doing any commercial activities there,” the bench said.
On Friday, Venugopal had said only two of the petitioners were not agreeable to the proposal but “the entire belief and faith of the devotees of Guru Ravidas is at the site where he stayed and therefore in the interest of peace and harmony we want to return the site to the devotees”.
The top court had asked the parties to file their response by Monday, if any, and said that it would pass order in the matter.
On October 4, it had asked the parties involved in a plea seeking permission to rebuild the Guru Ravidas temple in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad forest area to come back to it with an amicable solution on a better location for the temple. The apex court had said it respects everybody’s sentiments but the law has to be followed.
On August 27, the two former parliamentarians from the Congress party had moved the apex court seeking its nod to re-construct the temple, saying it is a pious site and prayers were held there for the last 500-600 years.
The petition filed by two former members of Parliament — Ashok Tanwar and Pradeep Jain Aditya — had sought enforcement of their right to worship which, they alleged, “was being denied to them due to demolition” of the temple and ‘Samadhi’ in Tughlaqabad.
The former parliamentarians had said that several facts were suppressed during the hearing of a suit before the apex court for removal of encroachment of surrounding areas. Their counsel had submitted that there were over six crore followers of Guru Ravidas and they have a fundamental right to worship at the said place.
The temple was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) following the court’s August 9 direction which had said, “Let the premises be vacated by tomorrow and structure be removed by the DDA with the help of the police”.
The apex court had observed that “serious breach” had been committed by Guru Ravidas Jayanti Samaroh Samiti by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by the top court.
The demolition had led to a series of protests in places such as Delhi, Punjab and Haryana and the apex court had on August 19 directed the authorities in these areas to ensure that no law and order situation is created politically or otherwise.