On Tuesday, the Supreme Court overturned Gujarat High Court’s order of directing the state government to use taxpayers’ money for the restoration and the rebuilding work of religious sites which were damaged in 2002 Godhra riots.
Overturning the Gujarat High Court’s order, a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justice PC Pant said that the order was not tenable in law.
Commenting in the rebuilding of the religious structures, the Court said that the government’s 2008-2009 scheme of providing for restoration of commercial, residential as well as religious structures will apply in the matter.
The bench comprising of two CJIs said that the government will share the funds based in its scheme and will not adhere to HC’s ruling.
In the order passed, the High Court had sought the assessment of the actual cost needed for restoration and providing such funds.
The matter was highlighted after Gujarat government filed an application against the High Court order, asking the state to quantify the damage caused to religious places during the riots and disburse money to rebuild them.
Arguing the case on behalf of the Gujarat government, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the tax payers’ money cannot be used for the restoration or rebuilding work.
Citing Article 27 in the Constitution, Tushar Mehta said that there is a specific prohibition against compelling people ‘to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.’
Speaking on behalf of the Gujarat government, Mehta further reasoned that upholding HC’s ruling in the matter will be against the ‘secular fabric of the country even if it orders use of public funds for construction of worship places for all religions’.