On October 8, 2021, the Supreme Court listed an appeal against the order of the Delhi High Court for removal of the encroachments and unauthorised occupants and shopkeepers from the Kalkaji Temple before a three-judge bench which has been involved in a similar case.
The appeal was filed by Neeta Bharadwaj against the order of the Trial Court’s which was given on January 16, 2021, as per which one of the daughters of Late Kali Charan Sharma, Kamlesh Sharma, was given the permission to conduct the pooja through a male representative to the extent of 1/6th share of her father.
The appeal was allowed on the grounds that according to the traditions of the Kalkaji Mandir, only male members are allowed to conduct pooja but no female members of the family could perform the pooja sewa or get it conducted it by someone.
Justice Pratibha Singh on September 27, 2021, stated that the interests of the deity and devotees are of primary importance and issued various directions for the administration and proper working of the temple, along with this certain direction were pronounced for resolution of disputes related to the bari rights between baridaars to ensure smooth functioning of the temple.
In order to maintain the day to day administration and the issues related to the safety of the temple, the Court appointed Retired Justice JR Midha. It was stated by the Court that the complete complex shall be under the direct supervision and control of the Administrator.
REMOVAL OF UNAUTHORIZED OCCUPANTS
The Court took on record certain photographs to observe that the manner in which the shopkeepers have constructed their shops had created obstructions for the devotees as they were left with lesser space in regard to the removal of unauthorized occupation by vendors, hawkers, shopkeepers and removal of unauthorised construction and encroachments.
The Court held that it was important that the unauthorised occupants or shopkeepers were liable to be removed in coordination with the Delhi Police and the SDMC, who were not having their valid legal rights to occupy the property.
The court held that “Accordingly, it is directed that all unauthorized occupants/encroachers, who do not enjoy valid tehbazari licenses, and who are in unauthorized occupants/encroachers” all of them were supposed to be removed unless they were protected by a Court Order.
The court held that there is an essential and dire need to preserve the spiritual sanctity of the temple from the unwanted elements that may convert into a commercial enterprise.
The court had earlier stated that the maintenance of the temple was in a dismal condition and had provided the local commissioner with the task to ascertain the collections/donations made to the Temple and check whether CCTV cameras installed inside its premises are operational.
In the reports provided by the previous receivers and the local commissioners it was found that the cleanliness and maintenance of the temple were not satisfactory.
A local commissioner was appointed for paying surprise visits to the Temple by the Court in order to ascertain the collection of offerings being put in donation boxes, ascertain conduct of “puja sewa” and also other issues regarding maintenance, cleanliness and other issues.
CASE PENDING BEFORE THE 3 JUDGE BENCH
The shopkeepers at the Kalkaji Temple had filed a Special Leave Petition against the order of the Delhi High Court which was issued on October 9, 2013, as per which the unauthorized constructions were supposed to be demolished within the Kalkaji premises by the municipal corporation.
This Order was stayed by the Supreme Court bench of Justices BS Chauhan and Dipak Mishra on October 12, 2013.
On April 2, 2018, the subjudice matter was heard by the apex court before the Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud.
On mention by Advocate on Record Sonal Jain before the bench led by Chief Justice on September 30, 2021, directions were issued to the Registry to list the matter on October 1, 2021, before an appropriate bench.