Gujarat High Court order, which directed the BJP-led state government to restore and rebuild religious sites damaged in the 2002 riots came under sharp scrutiny by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and P C Pant questioned the Gujarat HC’s order asking if was proper for a ‘secular State’ to order compensation for rebuilding places of worship.
In its observation, the bench said, “Money is required for economic growth… individual injury is a different thing where compensation is granted under Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution. Can it happen in a diversified country that a state is distributing public money to build religious places?”
Gujarat government had filed an appeal against the high court order, asking the state to disburse money to rebuild religious places damaged in 2002 riots.
Appearing for Gujarat, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that it would be improper for the State to use tax payers’ money for restoration or construction of any religious place.
Mehta said that the Article 27 in the Constitution specifically prohibits the State from 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.”
The Gujarat government lawyer also claimed that a judicial order will be against the ‘secular fabric of the country’ adding that ‘what is prohibited, therefore, is use of state fund, which consists of payment of various taxes by citizens, for repair /reconstruction/construction of any place of worship of any religion.”