The Court held that diversion of tax proceeds for restoring religious shrines destroyed even due to State's negligence violates the principles of Secularism. The court underlined a conception of Secularism based on Strict Separation principle. Additionally, the court further hinted that compensation can be sought only for violation of Right to Life and not for other fundamental rights.
During the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, 567 places of worship were damaged. This included 545 Islamic places of worship. The legal dispute began with the filing of a writ in the High Court in 2003, by an NGO called Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat(IRCG). IRCG sought compensation for restoration of damaged and desecrated places of worship from the Gujarat Government during the Gujarat Riots.
IRCG invoked the principle of ‘res ipsa loquitur‘ ((Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”) It is a doctrine that infers negligence from the very nature of the accident). They argued that the inaction by the State inaction led to the destruction of religious shrines, thus the State has the duty to compensate for violation of fundamental rights. IRCG focused on the conjoint reading of Article 21 and Article 25, to contend that state’s inaction in preventing the destruction of religious places violate their fundamental right. It argued that destruction of shrines belonging to a minority group by the dominant group inflicts humiliation, and infringes upon the dignity of the group. It pointed out that the dignity is an underlying facet of the Right to Life. It further contended that destruction of religious places of a minority group is an attack on religious symbols and a violation of the freedom of religion under Article 25.
In pursuance of the Gujarat HC order, a scheme was framed by the State of Gujarat in 2012. The Gujarat Government agreed to provide ex gratia assistance to all religious places damaged/destroyed in communal riots as but put a ceiling limit up to Rs. 50,000/- to all religious places damaged/destroyed during the communal riots. The IRCG appealed to the Supreme Court alleging that putting a ceiling of 50,000 on restoring the shrines would be “travesty of justice”. The case was before the 2 judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice P C Pant through civil appeal.
1. Does compensating for the repair of shrines violate Article 27, which prohibits tax proceeds from being diverted for the promotion of any particular religion?
2. Can compensation be awarded for the violation of fundamental rights?
3. Whether the destruction of religious shrines by a dominant group amounts to a violation of the fundamental right to life?