The portions of the 200-year-old Sri Laxmi Narain temple that were demolished for the construction of the Port Grand project have yet to be repaired despite the lapse of three years.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) called on Monday replies from the federal and provincial authorities pertaining to the delay in the restoration process of one of the city’s oldest structures located near Native Jetty. Headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, a division bench directed them to submit their replies by October 7.
The orders came after a petition was filed seeking contempt of proceedings against the former excise and taxation minister Mukesh Chawla, Hindu Panchayat’s acting secretary Satram Das, alias Ravi Dawani, and Arjun, alias Babu Maharaj, for not complying with the court’s directives to get the demolished parts of temple’s compound repaired.
A member of the Hindu community and temple caretaker, Kailash Wishram, had gone to court against the demolition in 2012. In his plea, Wishram stated that the route from the temple to the sea was blocked for the construction of Port Grand.
The Hindu community needs access to the sea so they can perform their religious rituals, said Wishram, adding that the route has been cut off and the staircase that led from the temple to the sea has been blocked. “The authorities have also demolished some structures within the compound,” he pointed out. This prevented the members of Hindu community from performing their rituals, he added.
Wishram alleged that the demolition was done on Chawla’s orders. But the minister denied his involvement.
On September 14, 2012, the court had ordered an inspection of the temple and a report to be submitted regarding the restoration of the temple, recalled Wishram.
The inspection team reported the inefficiency of the authorities and the judges ordered the staircase of the temple to be rebuilt within a month. It was also ordered that any construction material dumped at the site to be stacked in such a manner that it would not hinder the pilgrims’ movement. The construction work should be completed within four months, ordered the high court.
On Monday, Wishram told the judges that the authorities have yet to restore the demolished parts of the temple despite the lapse of three years.
The petitioner also requested the court to allow the Hindu community members to finance the restoration project. The authorities have completely halted the construction of the temple.
“In the wake of the upcoming religious festivals, such as Shivratri and Holi, the Hindu pilgrims will face inconvenience at the temple,” said Wishram. “Some families are willing to bear the cost of the renovation.” They should be granted permission to exercise their will, he added.
The bench issued notices to the federal and the provincial authorities to file their replies regarding the delay in the construction by October 7.