Illegally built structures can’t be right place to preach religion: SC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Illegally built structures can’t be right place to preach religion: SC

By, New Delhi
Feb 27, 2024 07:14 AM IST

Unauthorised religious structures on public land can never be a venue for preaching religion, the Supreme Court remarked on Monday

Unauthorised religious structures on public land can never be a venue for preaching religion, the Supreme Court remarked on Monday, reminding authorities across India of their obligation to promptly remove such encroachments.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by a Muslim religious body against the November 2023 judgment of the Madras high court. (ANI)
The bench was hearing an appeal filed by a Muslim religious body against the November 2023 judgment of the Madras high court. (ANI)

Ordering the removal of a mosque that was illegally constructed on public land in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai, a bench of justices Surya Kant and KV Viswanathan recalled a spree of top court orders in the past, fastening a duty on states and high courts to make sure no unauthorised constructions are allowed in the name of temple, church, mosque or gurdwara, on public streets or other public places.

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“We have ordered demolition of all unauthorised religious structures...be it a temple or a mosque. There was a judgement by this court and all high courts have been monitoring it. State governments have also been issued appropriate directions,” said the bench.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by a Muslim religious body against the November 2023 judgment of the Madras high court, directing the body to remove the mosque from public land in Chennai.

Representing the Hidaya Muslim Welfare Trust, senior advocate S Nagamuthu argued that there was no hindrance to public because of the mosque and that the trust had bought the said piece of land.

While the bench noted that the land stood acquired by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and the trust constructed the religious structure without any planning permission, Nagamuthu contended that the land remained vacant for a very long period, meaning the government did not need the land for any public purpose.

The bench, however, retorted: “Does it mean that you will encroach the land? The land belonged to the government, and they may or may not use it. You did not have any right to its occupation.”

It pointed out that even as local authorities issued stop work notice on the trust in 2020, the latter went ahead with the constructions. “It might have continued because of your hobnobbing with the local authorities. It was only because of the writ petitioner who relentlessly pursued the matter with the Chennai Corporation and finally approached the high court that it happened,” added the bench.

The court further said: “We are very clear...whether it’s a temple or a mosque, there cannot be unauthorised constructions.”

In its order, the court finally recorded: “The petitioner is clearly not the owner of the said plot of land. It belongs to the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority. The petitioner is an unauthorised occupant and he never applied for any planning permission. The construction was made in an illegal manner. We are satisfied that the order of the high court does not warrant any interference.”

In a 2006 case arising from Gujarat, the Supreme Court had, between 2009 and 2018, issued a slew of directions to ensure no unauthorised constructions come up on the public land in the form of religious structures. The court orders added that the state governments and the Union territories will assess any unapproved religious construction that has already come up on a case-by-case basis and will act promptly.

The matter was ultimately taken up by the Supreme Court in January 2018, and it was then remitted to the high courts for monitoring orders passed by the top court.

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