New Delhi: In a U-turn, the Supreme Court on Monday accepted the Centre”s proposal to reconstruct permanent Guru Ravidas Temple – at the same site where it was demolished in August — in the protected land of Tughlaqabad forest area here.
The temple was demolished by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on August 10 following the top court”s order which led to protests, and demonstrations by Guru Ravidas followers.
But on Monday the top court paved the way for reconstruction of the temple directing the Central government to form a committee within six weeks to oversee the construction work.
Appealing for “let there be peace”, the court also directed releasing all people arrested during the protest demanding construction of the temple on personal bonds.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S. Ravindra Bhat allowed the Central government”s proposal to increase the area to be allocated for Ravidas shrine.
The court was hearing pleas including that of Ashok Tanwar, former Haryana Congress unit chief, seeking reconstruction of Guru Ravidas temple in the protected land of Tughlaqabad forest area.
Appearing to devotees, senior advocate Vikas Singh welcomed the decision.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court that the Centre is ready to allocate 400 square metres of land. Earlier it was 200 sqaure metres.
The top court has, however, directed not to carry out any commercial activities, including paid parking inside the temple compound.
The government told the court it has paved the way for construction of temple to respect the sentiments of devotees. The Centre said that in view of the overwhelming faith, belief and emotional attachment of the devotees it has allowed the devotees to worship at the site.
Earlier, the Attorney General told the court that the Centre has agreed to give the land to devotees considering sensitivity and faith, after holding consultation with all parties, including devotees and government officials.
On October 4, the Supreme Court asked all parties (seeking reconstruction of temple) to hold consultation with the Attorney General and to come out with a solution amicably.
As per the memorandum of settlement submitted to the top court, no encroachment outside the temple boundaries will take place.
“There shall be an entrance to the shrine. The four old ”samadhis” will be restored but no structure would be constructed over the ”samadhis” and Sant Ravidas Pond will be restored,” the government said in the proposal.
The government has agreed to the demand for restoring the statue which is under the custody of DDA after demolition.
As per the proposal, a temporary structure in the nature of a cabin or made of wood will house the statue of Guru Ravidas and the dimensions of the temporary structure will be 20 feet by 20 feet. The devotees will be freely allowed to perform poojas at the site.
The temple episode has seen many twists and turns in the last two months. The Supreme Court said that it respects “sentiments of everyone” but the law has to be followed.
The issue related to the temple had first reached the trial court when a demolition drive was undertaken by the DDA on November 5, 1992 with respect to the unauthorized construction.
After the trial court decided the matter on July 31, 2018, the Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti approached the Delhi High Court seeking relief.
But on November 20, 2018, the Delhi High Court also dismissed Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti plea against demolition programme by DDA.
Finally on August 9, the Supreme Court denied granting any relief to Guru Ravi Das Jayanti Samaroh Samiti and observed that that “serious breach” has been committed by the Samiti by not vacating the forest area as earlier ordered by the court.
On August 27, Tanwar approched the top court seeking reconstruction of the temple citing enforcement of the right to worship. He claimed that the land for the shrine was given by Sultan Sikander Lodhi to Guru Ravidas in 1509. The petitioner said the site itself was pious and had been worshipped for 500-600 years and was protected as per the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.