Amidst criticism over the demolition of a temple in Mysore's Nanjangud, the Karnataka Assembly on Tuesday night passed the Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Bill, 2021, The Indian Express reported.
Neither Congress nor the JD(S) opposed the passage of the Bill but Opposition leaders reportedly criticised the move saying the ruling BJP government in Karnataka is trying to cover up its act of destruction the Mysore temple.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had tabled the Karnataka Religious Structures (Protection) Bill, 2021, in the State Assembly on Monday, seeking to protect religious structures which were constructed illegally in public places.
This comes after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka was left embarrassed and forced to face the ire of Hindu groups such as the Hindu Jagaran Vedike over the demolition of a temple in Nanjangud.
The government said in the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, "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 to hurt the religious sentiments of the public. Further, to restrict unauthorised religious structures and constructions in public places in future", news agency PTI reported.
What Does the Bill Say?
The Bill clarifies that only structures built before day of commencement of the proposed legislation will get protection from the impact of court orders.
The Bill also made it clear that no protection will be given if any case relating to the removal of religious places was pending in any court of law and in such other circumstances. It further directs the authorities not to allow any religious structure and its construction to happen in public places in the future.
The Karnataka government introduced this Bill just a week after the Nanjangud incident. The Supreme Court had issued orders back in 2009 to “demolish/relocate/regulate” unauthorised structures in public places.
Bommai had also directed officials to wait for guidelines for the demolition process after the backlash.
As per sources, to pacify the protesting Hindutva outfits, the government would allow the BJP as a party to rebuild the temple at Nanjangud. There are more than a thousand illegal religious structures in public places in the State, The Hindu reported.
The court-ordered demolition drive has been stopped for now.
'Congress Is Doing Drama Over the Issue': BJP
After the Bill was tabled, Karnataka Revenue Minister, R Ashok said, "We introduced the Bill to protect temples. We have to protect institutions of all religions."
Meanwhile, BJP National General Secretary, CT Ravi was quoted as saying, "We welcome the Karnataka government's decision. We would have avoided some issues if it was introduced earlier. Congress is doing drama over the issue", news agency ANI reported.
Hitting out at the BJP government in the state, Karnataka Congress leader NA Harris said, "They demolished temples, now they're saying they'll protect them. They're making fools out of people. They shouldn't touch any religious structure. It's being done for vote bank. Everything can't be made legal. They should've had a discussion."
(With inputs from PTI and The Indian Express)