Gujarat HC wants govt reply on damage to shrines in riots

AHMEDABAD – The Gujarat high court has given one month’s time to the state government as well as the federal government to file their replies on the implementation of the National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) report on damage to religious structures in the state during the 2002 communal riots.

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Published: Sat 26 Mar 2011, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:19 PM

The court has asked both the governments to submit affidavits on whether they had placed the NHRC report before the legislative assembly or parliament, and also whether any action had been taken on it.

Further hearing of the case has been fixed for April 22.

The high court was hearing a public interest litigation moved by the Gujarat unit of the Islamic Relief Committee which had claimed that the Gujarat government was under obligation to pay compensation or rebuild the religious structures demolished by rioters.

An NHRC survey had revealed that at least 535 religious structures in various parts of Gujarat were damaged during the Hindu-Mulsim clashes that had continued for about three months.

The Muslim organisation had claimed that the Gujarat government failed to discharge its duty to protect life and property and hence should compensate for the same.

The committee told the court that the state had a constitutional obligation to protect fundamental rights as well as religious identity. In any riot, the first attack would be on the symbols of religious identity such as religious structures, argued the petitioner.

The state government, however, is not inclined to provide any aid for damaged religious structures. The government pleader reiterated the its stand that it was the policy of the government not to compensate for damaged religious structures.

He also pointed out that the government had not provided any compensation for structures that were damaged or destroyed in the 2001 earthquake or during the terror attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar in 2003.

The court directed the state and federal governments to file affidavits after the petitioner argued that the state government has to act on the NHRC report and compensate or rebuild the riot-damaged religious structures.

The court bench also put a question before the Islamic Relief Committee asking it whether damage caused to a religious structure constituted a violation of human rights.

The high court last week had asked both the governments to decide on whether they intended to pay compensation to rape victims of the 2002 riots. Acting on different public interest litigations, the court had asked counsels representing the governments to declare whether any decision had been taken regarding payment to rape victims.

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