Delhi: The high court on Friday dismissed a plea seeking the demarcation of a seer’s shrine on public land in Delhi, highlighting the potential for widespread misuse if such allowances were made for all spiritual leaders. The court emphasised the critical need to prioritise public interest over individual claims to public property.

Delhi high court (File Photo)

Justice Dharmesh Sharma, delivering the verdict on Friday, underscored the broader implications of allowing religious structures to proliferate on public land. “In our country, we might find thousands of sadhus, babas, fakirs, or gurus across different parts of the landscape. If each one is allowed to build a shrine or samadhi sthal on public land and continue to use it for personal gains by vested interest groups, it would lead to disastrous consequences, jeopardizing larger public interest,” justice Sharma held.

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The plea was filed by Avinash Giri, the successor of Mahant Shri Naga Baba Bhola Giri, requesting the district magistrate of Daryaganj to demarcate a shrine situated at Old Delhi’s Nigambodh Ghat. Avinash claimed possession of the shrine since 2006 and expressed concerns over its potential demolition, following the demolition of nearby structures by the Flood Control and Irrigation Department of the Delhi government. 

The court, however, underlined the inherent contradiction in Naga sadhus seeking property rights. “Making no attempt to write a thesis on the way of life of Naga sadhus, as we understand in the Hindu religion, Naga sadhus are devotees of Lord Shiva and they are ordained to live a life of complete detachment from the worldly affairs, and therefore, seeking property rights in their names does not conform with their beliefs and practices,” the bench said.

Representing the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), additional standing counsel Shobhana Takiar argued that the shrine was situated on DDA-owned land. The court noted that there was no evidence to suggest that the shrine held any historical significance or was dedicated to public worship.

“Since the petitioner has placed no iota of evidence that the shrine is a place of historic significance and devoted to the public at large, the DDA is not enjoined upon to give any notice to the petitioner. The mere fact that the matter of demolition has not yet been considered or approved by the Religious Affairs Committee does not hold weight, as it is not a shrine devoted to the public but a private shrine,” justice Sharma observed.

The court concluded that the property in question was intended for larger public projects, such as the rejuvenation of the Yamuna River. It declared the seer’s successor a “rank trespasser” and dismissed the plea, stating it was “bereft of merits.”

“The seer’s successor has no right, title, or interest to continue using the shrine,” the court ruled.