ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Encroaching Places of Worship

The Supreme Court delivers a bold interim order on construction of places of worship on government land.

Those who occupy public places in the name of religion have received a warning from the Supreme Court. An interim order of the apex court has halted with immediate effect all fresh construction of temples, churches, mosques, gurdwaras in public streets or public spaces across the country until the Court finally resolves all cases relating to illegal religious structures. The bench directed the state governments and union territories to review current disputes over unauthorised worship places on a “case by case” basis.

The apex court was hearing an appeal by the central government against an order of the Gujarat High Court. The high court had in 2006 given a directive to municipal corporations in Gujarat to demolish all illegal religious structures in public spaces in the state. The central government interfered in this matter when a riot was triggered in Vadodara after the demolition of a dargah and the army had to stage a flag march to restore order. The centre had approached the apex court to stay the order of the Gujarat High Court on the demolition drive. (On 17 September 2009, before the Supreme Court gave its interim order, a meeting called by the Solicitor General with the representatives of states and union territories to discuss the issue of mushrooming religious structures on public land reached a consensus to stop fresh construction of worship places on all such land, a decision that was communicated to the Court.)

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