Saturday, December 9, 2023

Supreme Court stays demolition by Railways near Krishna Janmabhoomi temple, issues notice to Centre

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed for 10 days, the demolition being carried out by the Indian Railways on a settlement located in the backyard of Krishna Janmabhoomi temple of Mathura and directed that status quo be maintained in the area.

Granting interim relief to the residents, the three-Judge Bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti issued notice to both the Central government and the India Railways and listed the matter for further hearing after one week.

Senior Advocate Prashanto Chandra Sen apprised the top court of the country that when the petitioner approached the Apex Court, all courts in Uttar Pradesh were closed. Taking advantage of the situation, the authorities bulldozed over 100 houses. 

Noting that out of around 200 houses in the area, only 70-80 were left, the Senior Counsel urged the Apex Court for urgent hearing on the matter, stating that the whole thing would become infructuous if the demolition drive was to continue.

The Apex Court allowed the petitioner to file an additional affidavit and indicated that it might ultimately relegate the parties to the civil court, where suits in respect of the properties were pending. 

Senior Advocate Prashanto Chandra Sen, assisted by Advocates Kaushik Chaudhry, Radha Tarkar and Aaron Shaw, appeared for the petitioner.

The top court of the country passed the verdict on a writ petition filed by Mathura resident Yakub Shah under Article 32 of the Constitution.

The government started a demolition drive in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh on August 9, razing around 135 houses in Nai Basti, a settlement along the railway track in the backyard of the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple. 

The Railway authorities claimed that the houses were illegal encroachments built on government land. 

They further claimed that the demolition drive was launched under a plan to convert the 21-km stretch from Mathura to Vrindavan from narrow to broad gauge, so as to facilitate the operation of trains like Vande Bharat. 

However, the residents vehemently protested the move and approached a local court for stay on the same. The matter could not be taken up due to a strike called by lawyers in Uttar Pradesh after an Advocate was shot dead.

After giving three days’ time to the residents to move out with their belongings, a team comprising officials of the Railways, the district administration and State Police conducted the exercise. 

Since the trial court could not decide on the matter, Yakub Shah moved the Apex Court, seeking an urgent hearing in the case. 

The petitioner alleged that the demolition was carried out in an area having predominantly Muslim population, even as a challenge against the eviction notices issued in June was pending before a local court in Mathura. 

The Nai Basti was located along a railway track near Krishna Janmabhoomi. Multiple suits and petitions were pending in various courts of the country, including the Supreme Court, over the ownership of the land, on which the adjoining Shahi Eidgah mosque was built. 

Hindu parties have claimed that this mosque was constructed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing Hindu temples. 

The Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Mukti Nirman Trust recently moved the Apex Court seeking scientific survey of the Shahi Eidgah mosque premises.

(Case title: Yakub Shah vs Union of India & Ors)

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