On Thursday (November 19, 2020), the Apex Court granted the Uttarakhand Govt an extension of time until 31 May 2021 to remove four illegal religious structures in the areas of Haridwar that occupy public property.
The petition by the Govt of Uttarakhand seeking an extension of time until May 31, 2021 was allowed by a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan. The state said it was seeking an extension of time only in the context of the Kumbh Mela scheduled to take place in January 2021.
The Bench said that, "We are of the view that the state should be permitted to remove the illegal structures by May 2021". The Bench was also told that only 5 buildings are left to be demolished out of 795, but there is one structure-property conflict. The Court then ordered the Government in Haridwar to demolish four remaining illegal religious structures. Counsel for Intervenor Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad advised the court that the structures should not be demolished, but the appeal was dismissed by the Bench. A suo motu Public Interest Lawsuit (PIL) concerning the demolition of all unauthorised religious structures constructed on public land has also been heard by the High Court of Uttarakhand. After an Apex Court's order, the Uttrakhand HC had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue. The State Govt had told the High Court that while in districts such as Dehradun, Nainital, & Udham Singh Nagar, almost all religious structures constructed on public land have been cleared, it will take time to clear all such structures in Haridwar as many of these are used to host the next year's Kumbh Mela. The Supreme Court ordered all states to demolish illegal religious buildings, stating that no unauthorised building on highways, parks and other public places can be tolerated in the name of gods and religion. All cases relating to the demolition of religious buildings on public land across India is forwarded by the Supreme Court to the respective State HCs.