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Monday, March 08, 2021

Govt, police should work with secular mind: Bombay HC

Authorities should avoid ‘general fear’ of acting in cases that involve religious feelings, maintains the high court

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: February 4, 2021 7:57:36 pm
Bombay hc, mangrove trees, mangrove trees felling, mangrove tress felling permission, indian express newsThe respondent authorities did not dispute that it was a “public project” and granted permissions to remove mangroves as “public necessity.”

The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad bench on Wednesday said government authorities, including police, are expected to work with a “secular mind” and should adhere to “truth” by exercising a “scientific approach” as suggested in the Constitution.

The court added that they should avoid “general fear” of inviting trouble if the case involves religious feelings and that initiating action can be viewed as an “act against God”.

The court, maintaining this, directed the Maharashtra government and the police to register a case against the Trustees of Jagadamba Devi Charitable Trust, Mohote, in Ahmednagar district and other persons for “illegal acts” committed since 2011. The acts include burying of around 2kg gold in the name of “Suvarna Yantras” and misappropriating Rs 25 lakh as additional expenditure to perform ceremonies in respect of the same among acts.

On February 3, a division bench of Justice Tanaji V Nalawade and Justice Mukund G Sewlikar passed a judgment on a writ petition filed by a social worker and former trustee Namdev Sahebrao Garad (52) through advocate Ajinkya S Kale, instructed by Talekar and Associates, seeking an FIR against those involved in the commission of the crime in 2011 and afterward and sought records and audits of the Trust between 2009-2019, including details of precious metals collected and procedure undertaken on it.

Garad also submitted that Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANIS), in 2017, had made a complaint to the police, seeking action against alleged illegal activity. However, no cognizance was taken which prompted him to move the high court.

The court observed that it was “surprising” that even when the district judge was a member of the Trust, he accepted the proposals made by the architect to construct structures for the ceremony involving burying of “Suvarna Yantras”.

The bench noted the inaction might have happened due to “general fear” in the minds of the authorities which led them to avoid taking steps against the Trust. “In view of Article 51-A of the Constitution of India, this court holds that the authorities are expected to work with a secular mind in such cases and they need to adhere to the ‘truth’,” the bench said.

Justice Nalawade, who authored the 26-page judgment, went on to remark: “The authority needs to have a scientific approach in such matters and they need to adhere to the provisions of law. With that approach, they need to make inquiries and investigations and take action. The authority cannot accept the religious propositions like made in the present matter for trustees as such propositions cannot be scientifically proved. If no such approach is adopted, ‘truth’ will always suffer defeat and the tendency like one shown by the trustees in the present matter will go on increasing.”

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