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Gujarat Riots: Islamic Relief Committee Gujrat on High Court Decision over damaged places of worship

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[Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, Chairman, Islamic Relief Committee Gujarat, Ahmedabad, has issued the folowing press statement over High Court decision regarding the rehabilitation of the desecrated and damaged places of worship.]

Against the gross inaction and unconstitutional actions of the State Government, firstly of not protecting the places of worship from desecration and damage during the communal violence, which continued unabated in the year 2002 after Godhra incident and secondly of not providing any compensation or assistance for the rehabilitation of the desecrated and damaged places of worship, the Islami Relief Committee after series of representations which remained unheeded approached the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat with a Public Interest Litigation.

In the petition list of 572 places of worship which were desecrated and damaged spread out throughout the State was produced. It was contended that the said damage had occasioned due to inaction and failure on the part of the State to protect the affected places of worship, therefore, the loss should be compensated by the State Government. For claiming compensation reliance was placed upon the reports of National Human Right Commission, published on 1/4/2002 and 31/5/2002 and also the Annual Report of year 2002-2003, wherein NHRC recorded the failure and inaction on the part of the State Government to protect the places of worship and recommended rehabilitation of the places of worship, which the State Government accepted in principle. Further, as serious violation of fundamental rights particularly of freedom of religion had also occurred, the same was also made the basis for preferring petition. It was further contended that as the losses sustained by residential premises and commercial premises during the communal violence were compensated, similar treatment should also be provided to the places of worship.
Against the same, the State Government did not dispute the magnitude of damage and desecration caused to the places of worship, but took stand that it is their policy decision, not to provide for compensation for places of worship, as it did not pay any compensation even after the earthquake. It was further contended that the payment of compensation would be violative of Article 27 of the Constitution of India, as the State is “Secular State”. It was also further contended that, as almost all the places of worship excluding around 37 were rehabilitated, the petition had lost its significance.

After filing of the petition the Hon’ble High Court desired that the said issue be resolved by negotiations and pragmatic decision. Therefore, series of exchange of representations and consultations were made, but the State Government refused to accede to the request and continued with its stand of non-payment of compensation for the rehabilitation of the places of worship. Further, though the Hon’ble High Court orally suggested that the admitted and remaining not rehabilitated 37 places of worships, be rehabilitated, the State Government refused to do the same also. Ultimately the petition was heard on merits and is allowed by the historic and landmark judgment dated 8/2/2012. 

Summarily, it can be stated that the Hon’ble High Court has accepted the petition and all contentions made therein, particularly about failure and inaction on the part of the State Government, both in protecting the places of worships and payment of compensation. Further, the State Government’s defiance of not placing the Reports of NHRC before the State Legislative Assembly has also been seriously deprecated. Particularly as the NHRC had in specific and categorical terms held that there was failure and inaction on the part of the State Government to protect the fundamental rights and human rights during the communal violence in 2002 and had also recorded the State Government’s acceptance of the recommendations, more particularly, in relation to the places of worship. Therefore, in furtherance thereto, the Hon’ble High Court has now laid down a Scheme for awarding compensation by providing a time bound schedule to approach the Hon’ble Principle District Judges of the respective Districts, wherein the affected damaged places of worship are situated and after the completion of procedure as provided by the Hon’ble High Court, reference of the decision for confirmation to the Hon’ble High Court.

Therefore, in view of the aforesaid historical landmark judgment the respective Institutions / Managements who are in charge of the affairs of respective places of worship, are now almost after 10 years, required to assimilate the record, which may be available with them and collect particulars from the Authorities and on the basis thereof lodge their claims before the Honorable Principal District Judge. Since, the Islami Relief Committee had provided for financial assistance for rehabilitation of number of such places of worship, the Islami Relief Committee would itself be able to lodge claim for the said places of worship. Whereas for the remaining places of worship exercise for collecting the record and particulars of the damage and the expenses for the rehabilitation is required to be undertaken, to be presented, as per the judgment of the Hon’ble High Court. For the same also, the Islami Relief Committee and other such organizations, who took active part in rehabilitation of desecrated and damaged places of worship have initiated steps and efforts. 

Lastly, it may be stated that immediately after the Hon’ble High Court pronounced its judgment the State Government has started collecting data from the respective Institutions / Managements managing the respective places of worship, about the damage caused and the rehabilitation undertaken, but without any prior intimation or notice. Therefore, the respective Institutions / Managements managing the respective places of worship have been taken by surprise, as without any preparation they are asked to provide details and particulars, that too after almost 10 years. Therefore, it is most earnest desire and request that at least now, the State Government may approach the issue pragmatically with a view to provide financial assistance for the damage caused in the communal violence in 2002 and not proceed with adversarial approach of fighting and contesting the claims for damages, to deprive the victims of communal violence.
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