Castigating the Narendra Modi government for not placing reports of NHRC on damages and compensation for destruction of religious places before the state assembly, the Gujarat High Court has termed it as "grave lapse", violative of human rights.
The HC, in its verdict delivered yesterday, deplored that no explanation was given by the state government for not placing annual and other reports of the National Human Rights Commission on restoration of religious structures before the assembly till today despite receiving them in early 2005.
"Such grave lapse on the part of the state government amounts to clear violation of Section 20 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993," a division bench of acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice JB Pardiwit said in the order.
The court held that the policy adopted by the state government restricting compensation only to damaged residential and business premises and not extending it to places of worship was violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
"The policy of the state government taken in defence is one of evading the constitutional responsibility and will bring anarchy in the society, and thus, is detrimental to the establishment of the principles and the tenets of our Constitution," it said.
The court also said that the policy would give a wrong signal to the citizens that "religious places should take up arms in their own hand because in the event of destruction of those places, no financial help would come from government."
"It will also encourage the religious bigots to destroy religious and other places of worship of the economically weaker section for the purpose of establishing their superiority over the others," the court stated.
These scathing observations were made by the court while ordering compensation for over 500 religious structures damaged in the state during post-Godhra riots, on a petition filed by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG).
Delivering the judgement, the court slammed the Modi government, terming the 2002 communal conflagration as "negligence of the State" and censured it for "inaction", holding that it had resulted in an "anarchic" situation.
"Even if we for the sake of argument accept the defence of the State that the cause of riot was the general reaction from the incident of Sabarmati Express, the failure on part of the police intelligence to gather such general reaction (after the Godhra train burning incident) in time and to take appropriate timely action definitely come within expression 'negligence of the State'," the court said.
"Similarly, the fact remain that the anarchy continued unabated for days ... itself suggests lack of appropriate action or adequate action, if not inaction, on the part of the State in handling the situation," it further observed.
"The state cannot shirk from its responsibilities," the court maintained while noting "Once we hold that there was 'inadequate endeavour' on the part of the state government in effectively handling the situation resulting in destruction of more than 500 places of religious worship throughout the state belonging only to the one religious community."
Passing the order, seen as a major setback to the Modi government, the court concluded, "It is the duty of the state government to restore all those religious places, irrespective of the religion, to its original position as it existed at the time of destruction."
The court said if those structures had already been restored, the government should compensate persons in charge of those places by reimbursing the amount spent by them.
Meanwhile, government spokesman and minister of state for energy Saurabh Patel has said that government will pay compensation as directed by the high court.