The Kerala High Court has directed that no illegal religious place, irrespective of the religion, should be allowed on government land.

The High Court said God is “omnipotent” and is present everywhere, even in the bodies of believers, in their homes and wherever they go.

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan said, “Therefore, there is no need for believers to encroach upon government land for building religious structures. It should be distributed among the landless people and used for the welfare of mankind. In such a situation the Lord will be more pleased and shower blessings on all the believers.”

The court’s direction and observations came on a plea by Kerala Plantation Corporation Limited seeking direction to the state government, police and Pathanamthitta district authorities to identify the properties leased to it and evict all encroachers from there.

Allowing the corporation’s plea, the court directed the authorities to identify the properties leased to the corporation and “evict all encroachers, including illegal religious structures, built on government land, forthwith, at any rate, within a period of six months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment”.

The court’s May 27 order also directed the chief secretary to direct all district collectors to investigate whether any illegal, unauthorised stones or crosses or other structures having religious overtones have been erected by any religious group on any government land.

“The District Collectors shall conduct such inquiry within a period of six months from the date of receipt of the order from the Chief Secretary of the State.

The court said, “Whenever any illegal religious structure is found on government land, the District Collector concerned, with the assistance of the police department, after conducting an investigation as directed above, within a period of six months, after hearing the affected parties, shall remove the illegal religious structure from the government land.”

It also directed that a report be submitted to it within a year regarding the action taken pursuant to the court order.

It said the district magistrates must take action within the time-frame “so that we can live with communal harmony and strengthen the country as a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic, as enshrined in the preamble of our Constitution”.

In his order, Justice Kunhikrishnan said that every religious denomination or any section thereof has the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.

He said, “This does not mean that citizens can do anything that may create communal hatred. Nowadays, there is a trend of erecting some stones or crosses at public places and government lands and giving religious colour to the place by saying that it has religious significance and then worshipping those stones and crosses.”

“As a result, this would lead to temporary construction and ultimately permanent construction by considering it as a religious place. If people start constructing illegal religious structures and buildings on public places and government lands, it may lead to conflict between religions, which will definitely lead to religious animosity,” the court said.

In its petition, the corporation had said that in the name of religion, a conscious effort was being made by some political groups to encroach upon and occupy its properties.

He claimed that when he opposed such moves, serious law and order problems had arisen.

The Corporation had also stated that the labour employed by it in the plantations live in accommodation provided by it known as ‘Layam’.

It said that most of its employees believed in Hinduism and since Layam did not have a place of worship, they had constructed small buildings and installed idols of deities in them.

The police had told the court that the corporation had not opposed the construction of such small temples for worship by its employees, but gradually local residents interfered in the affairs of such temples and they tried to construct new buildings near such temples.

The police had said that this led to a confrontation between the corporation and local residents. They said that the small temples installed by the workers are very old and it is easy to remove them, but this will create law and order problems.

The court said that “in this manner illegal structures are springing up in the state under the guise of religious worship”.

“Kerala is a small state with hundreds of temples, churches and mosques. Kerala is called ‘God’s own country’. Kerala is a state with a large population. The government is taking steps to distribute government land to hundreds of landless people. Some land has been leased out for plantations.

The High Court said, “Such places cannot be used for religious purposes. This will only create religious hatred in the state. If one religion is allowed to establish its deity on government land, then other religions will also start establishing their religious institutions. This will only create problems including law and order issues in the state.”

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

first published: May 30, 2024 | 12:07 pm First

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *