How a bystander court went wrong in ruling Gujarat needn’t pay for shrines damaged in 2002 riots

November 22, 2017

The Supreme Court passed judgment on 29th Aug 2017 on the whether the State of Gujarat should pay for the repair of those shrines that were destroyed during the Gujarat riots. The 2 Judge Bench overturned the Gujarat High Court decision and ruled that using income tax revenue to repair the religious buildings would amount to “promoting” religion and run counter to maintaining secularism which was the objective of Article 27. Satya Prasoon, an associate at CLPR, examines this judgement in the context of formal secularism and constitutional citizenship and puts forward an argument for substantive secularism.

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A month back, Prime Minister Narendra Modi thundered in Uttarakhand that he had  volunteered to rebuild the Kedarnath Shrine when he was the chief minister of Gujarat after the 2013 flash floods, but was stopped by the Congress (UPA) government which was in power then. He expressed great remorse at being denied the opportunity to reconstruct the shrine.

Now sample this: Over two months ago, the Supreme Court decided in favour of the Gujarat government (Gujarat versus IRCG case) and struck down the Gujarat High Court’s order directing the state government to repair or rebuild the 535 Muslim shrines damaged or destroyed during the 2002 communal violence in the state, and compensate those which have already been repaired or rebuilt.

Curiously, the bench decided that using tax proceeds to rebuild shrines was not allowed and fixed a ceiling limit of Rs 50,000 for each shrine.

The irony in Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly vowing to rebuild Hindu shrines while the Gujarat government is fighting tooth and nail (in the high court and then in apex court) not to rebuild Muslim shrines destoyed during the Gujarat riots is for everyone to see.

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