Authorities obligated to ensure public land not encroached as place of worship HC

Authorities like the DDA are obligated to ensure that places of worship are not created on public land by unscrupulous persons through encroachment, the Delhi High Court has said.

Justice Prathiba M Singh expressed "grave concern" over encroachment of public land "under the shelter of a place of worship", saying it has been seen in a large number of cases that people claim rights over government land under the garb of temples or other places of worship.

"Such attempts by unscrupulous parties ought to be discouraged, inasmuch as the occupants, under the garb of a place of worship, turn the land into a completely unplanned encroachment by hundreds of people.

"The authorities have an obligation to ensure that in public land, places of worship are not created in this manner. Moreover, in the present case, an infrastructure project is being completely crippled due to the pendency of this litigation. This would be contrary to even public interest," the court said.

"This trend has been repeatedly frowned upon by the Supreme Court and other courts," the high court further said, while dismissing a suit seeking to permanently restrain the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) from demolishing four temples located at New Patel Nagar here.

Justice Singh held that the land in question was public land and the plaintiff was not entitled to any relief and also imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on him to be deposited with the High Court of Delhi (Middle Income Group) Legal Aid Society.

The suit was filed by a person claiming to be the 'chela' late Swami Onkara Nand who was managing/ running the four temples situated on the land in question.

The plaintiff had contended that the temples were on the land in question since the 1960s and the places of worship were in his possession after the death of Swami Onkara Nand in 1982.

The DDA claimed that the entire land belonged to government and the plaintiff was in its illegal occupation.

It had contended that the plaintiff has no right over the land in question which was given to DDA for rehabilitation of the Kathputli Colony dwellers way back in 1982.

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