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The Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun Mishra and L Nageswara Rao on Tuesday resumed its hearing on the case of several places of worship, shrines, both Hindu and Muslim, encroaching on public property in Gujarat and in many other states.

The court on Tuesday (November 7) ordered some state officials to file their replies in two weeks or face contempt proceedings.

The case emanates from the Gujarat High Court, which had taken cognisance of a news item published in The Times of India, Ahmedabad edition of May 2, 2006 which had said that 1200 temples and 260 Islamic shrines had encroached on public space. The high court, while taking suo motu action, had issued notice to the 14 persons/authorities who were arrayed as respondents. While doing so, the High Court had given the following interim direction:

“Meanwhile, all the respondents are directed to take immediate steps for removal of encroachment of religious structures on the public space without any discrimination and submit their reports.”

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who was then the Additional Solicitor General, had argued for the Union of India, saying that this interim direction (of the high court) was in the nature of final direction which could be issued only after hearing the respondents and that no such direction could be issued at a preliminary stage without hearing the respondents.

On Tuesday arguments were framed around the subject.

The senior counsel appearing for Chhattisgarh stated that 26 states had filed their affidavits. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and UP have complied with the directions previously issued by this court.

The Supreme Court bench served notice on chief secretaries of Uttarakhand and Telangana.

The order also said that administrators of the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadar and Nagar Haveli will comply with the previous order dated May 10, 2016.

The bench said that the states and Union Territories which have not filed their affidavits are given two weeks time as a last chance to file affidavits through their chief secretaries stating the reasons for not complying with the orders passed by this court from time to time, failing which, the respective chief secretaries shall remain present personally before this court on the next date of hearing to take/accept notice for initiation of contempt proceedings for wilful and deliberate defiance in complying with the orders passed by this court.

The contempt and compliance proceedings can be instituted by the respondents before the court.

The matter has been listed for the last week of January, 2018.

India Legal Bureau

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