Supreme Courts raps Gujarat government for delaying Asaram Bapu rape probe

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Asaram Bapu

The bench was hearing an appeal by the Gujarat Government against the High Court order, asking the state to quantify the damage caused to religious places during the 2002 riots and disburse money to rebuild them.

The Supreme Court today has questioned the BJP government in Gujarat for the slow trial in a rape case involving self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, who is already in jail for a number of cases registered against him. "The individual has his freedom to practice the religion as he desires and it is totally immaterial from the perspective of the State", it said, adding "the protection of property and places of worship is an essential part of secularism".

Representing Gujarat, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had asserted that taxpayers' money could not be used for restoration or construction of any religious place.

The High Court order had come on a plea by NGO Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat.

"In our opinion, if only a relatively small part of any tax collected is utilised for providing some conveniences or facilities or concessions to any religious denomination, that would not be violative of Article 27 of the Constitution".

The high court had ordered that principal judges of 26 districts of the state will receive the applications for compensation of religious structures in their respective districts and decide on it.

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In its petition in 2003, the IRCG had sought court's directions to the government to pay compensation towards damage of religious places.

As per the scheme, only those damaged religious structures would be entitled for compensation that were not unauthorised or not located in the middle of a public road or at an unauthorised place and in respect of which FIRs were lodged at relevant points of time.

The people or trust claiming the compensation for damages to the structure will have to establish their ownership before the district authorities.

Accepting the scheme, the court noted that while fixing the maximum limit, the Government has equated the same with houses which have been given the assistance.

Hence, the Court set aside the High Court judgment.

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