The Allahabad High Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to remove or shift religious structures "in any form" which encroach on public roads, including sideways.
It asked the state government to ensure that no religious structure in any form, whatsoever, shall be allowed or permitted to be erected on public roads including highways, streets, pathways and lanes and warned that any violation will be considered a criminal contempt by administration and police officials.
A Lucknow bench of justices Sudhir Agarwal and Rakesh Srivastva said religious structures raised after January 2011 that encroach on public roads will be removed forthwith and a compliance report shall be submitted by concerned district magistrate to the state government within two months.
Those raised earlier should be shifted to private land or removed within six months.
It gave the directions while disposing a writ petition filed by 19 locals against alleged encroachment of public pathway land in Mohalla Dauda Khera in Lucknow by the construction of a temple.
Observing that every citizen has a fundamental right of movement and this cannot be allowed to be infringed upon by a few violators in public and the apathy of state authorities, the high court also directed the state government to chalk out a plan to ensure that public roads were not obstructed due to observance of religious activities.
It said such activities should not create hindrance in the smooth flow of traffic and public movement on roads and should be performed strictly at places identified for the same or belonging to concerned religious sections or at any private place.
"In our view, those who create such obstructions as also those who perpetuate it by taking care/managing such structures and also those who fail to take any action in law, all deserve to be taken to task and made responsible and accountable for their respective misdeeds," the court said.
The court said it should be ensured that "no religious structure in any form, whatsoever, shall be allowed/permitted to be raised on public road (including highways), street, pathway and lane, including sideways which is part and parcel of road and belong to the state".
It directed the state government through the chief secretary to issue a general directive in this regard to all DMs and senior superintendent of police/superintendent of police including the officers responsible for maintenance of roads (including highways) in the state.