The Karnataka government on Monday tabled a bill to protect illegal religious structures at public places before the state assembly. Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai tabled the Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Bill, 2021, after it was approved during a cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
The move comes days after the Karnataka government drew flak from the BJP and opposition over the demolition of a temple in Nanjangud in Mysuru.
“It is considered necessary to provide for the protection of religious constructions in a public place constructed before the date of commencement of this Act, in order to protect communal harmony and not hurt religious sentiments of the public. Further to restrict unauthorised religious structure and constructions in public places in future," the bill reads.
Illegal religious structures such as temple, church, mosque, gurdwara, bodh vihar, majar etc, constructed in public places will be protected under this law.
The bill does not intend to protect structures if the case of its removal is pending in a court and if it is constructed in a public place illegally thereafter.
The exercise to remove illegal religious structures began based on a 2009 Supreme Court order. While not much had been done for long, the Karnataka High Court pulled up the state government — the chief secretary in particular — about not acting on the order. It asked the chief secretary to submit regular reports on the action taken to the court.
Over 6,300 religious structures have been identified as illegal across the state; the chief secretary had asked deputy commissioners (collectors) of each district to start enforcing court orders. Tehsildars were ordered to demolish one structure a week in each taluk. The chief secretary was asked to file affidavits periodically.
After the temple in Nanjangud, however, was demolished, BJP MP Pratap Simha questioned the move. Following this, Hindu groups, other BJP leaders, Congress and JDS leaders questioned the government’s intentions.
This forced the state government to ask for a show-cause notice from officials in Mysuru and to advise them on going slow with the demolition drive.
The details of the bill and once passed, the law, will be worked out to see how they could circumvent court orders.