The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy challenging the Devsthanam Act introduced for the management of 51 temples in the hill state, including Badrinath and Kedarnath.
The division bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe while delivering the order maintained that Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019, does not violate the freedom of religion as mentioned in the petition under various sections of the constitution.
Swamy, in a series of tweets, suggested he will move the Supreme Court against the judgment. “I am awaiting the full judgment to be up loaded. Broadly some Sections appear to have been struck down, but the Act as such minus these Sections remains. Hence I have to approach the SC as in my earlier victories after losing in the HC e.g., Sabhanayagar Nataraj, 2G Spectrum cases (sic),” tweeted Swamy minutes after the decision came.
He added, “Ultimately for our system to work there has to be faith in the system, which depends on the case arguments and the judges appreciation of the same. Hence we have for Writ petitions two tier safeguard: HC and SC. Some times HC says yes and SC says no & vice versa.”
Swamy in his petition had underlined that the government has no right to get involved in religious affairs. The Act, he said, was unconstitutional and violates fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of the country. During arguments, Padmanabh Swamy Temple case was also quoted in support of Swamy’s plea. Interestingly, a Dehradun-based NGO RLEK came in favour of the Act. Kartikey Hari Gupta, counsel for RLEK, said Devasthanam Act and Padmanabh Swamy Temple are different cases and the court took this fact into consideration.
“In Padmanabh case, the continuous management of king and his successors was found out by the court since the year 1686. In the case of Badrinath Temple, such continuous management of the king was broken in the year 1899 when the scheme of administration was made to govern these temples by the High Court of Kumaon” Gupta told News18.
The Trivendra Rawat government last November decided to bring revered shrines Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and 47 other temples under the purview of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act for professionally managing services and the growing numbers of pilgrims visiting these temples. Last year, more than 30 lakh pilgrims visited Char Dhams. This year, due to Covid-19, the pilgrimage is limited only for visitors from the state.
Meanwhile, the chief minister expressed satisfaction over the verdict, saying government has no intention to scrap rights of those involved in the affairs of the temple. “The Act is meant for providing better services in the Char Dham circuit and we are committed to it,” he said.