The Narendra Modi government was on Wednesday pulled up by the Gujarat High Court for "inaction and negligence" on its part during the 2002 post-Godhra riots that led to large-scale destruction of religious structures.
A division bench of acting chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala made these observations, while ordering compensation for over 500 religious structures in the state.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG). Inadequacy, inaction and negligence on the part of the state government to prevent riots resulted in large-scale destruction of religious structures across the state, the court observed. The government was responsible for repair and compensation for such places, it further said. The court said that when the government had paid compensation for destruction of houses and commercial establishments, it should also pay compensation for religious structures.
The court also ordered that principal judges of 26 districts of the state will receive the applications for compensation of religious structures in their respective districts and decide on it.
They have been asked to send their decisions to HC within six months. IRCG's petition in 2003 had sought court's directions to the government to pay compensation towards damage of religious places during riots on the ground that the National Human Rights Commission, too, had recommended and the state government had in principle accepted the suggestion.
The state government had opposed the IRCG petition, saying it was a violation of article 27 of the Constitution. The government further said that there was no policy with regards to compensation for restoration/repair of religious places damaged or destroyed during the riots.
Lawyer for IRCG, M T M Hakim hailed it as a "landmark judgement" in the country, in which compensation has been ordered for destruction of religious structures. "This is also probably for the first time that a court has held the state government responsible for inaction and negligence during the 2002 riots," Hakim told PTI.