The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday dismissed the PIL filed by BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy, challenging the constitutional validity of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019. The petition had sought a direction to strike down the Act.
A division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe, while dismissing the PIL, said, “Except to the limited extent that the words ‘shall devolve’ in Section 22 must be read as ‘devolve on the Char Dham and shall be maintained by the Board’, and the words ‘may further acquire land’, in the proviso thereto, shall be read as ‘may further acquire land on behalf of the Char Dham’, the challenge to the validity of the 2019 Act, on the ground that it violates Articles 14, 25, 26 and 31-A of the Constitution of India, must fail.”
The Act, which brings the Char Dham of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri and many other temples under the purview of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Board, has faced protest from the Congress as well as from priests and pandas of the Badrinath shrine, who had earlier staged demonstrations in Dehradun and other districts.
Swamy, in February, filed a PIL challenging the Act, and the High Court on July 6 had reserved judgment in the matter.
In the judgment, the court stated that the contention that the Act discloses the avaricious intent of the state to interfere with religious matters, and its intent to take over the properties of the temple given for worship, under the garb of secular activities, is devoid of merit.
“We are satisfied, therefore, that all the Char Dham and associated temples are public temples whose secular functions can be regulated by a law made by the competent legislature,” the court said in the order.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat welcomed the judgment and said the constitution of the board was not a political matter. However, Swamy indicated he will appeal the matter in the Supreme Court.
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