Religious functions on public land: India

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If festivities of one religion/ sect allowed then so should be of other religions/ sects: HC

Sep 11, 2023: The Times of India

Kolkata : Right to life broadly includes the right to organise religious festivities, the Calcutta high court has said, allowing Ganesh Puja to be held on a plot in Asansol that was earmarked only for Durga Puja and government programmes.

On August 14, the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA) had told a Ganesh Puja organiser that it could not allow Ganesh Puja on an ADDA plot. The organisers moved HC and ADDA opposed it, but the state indicated to the court that it could consider the plea.

The HC said that ADDA’s decision was “palpably absurd” and out of line with Article 14 of the Constitution of India. “If Durga Puja is allowed on the ground, which is also a festivity of Hindus, there is no reason why festivities of other religions or the same religion, be it of other idols, should not be allowed thereon,” the judge said.

ADDA had argued, citing Supreme Court orders, that Article 25 — the right to practise religion — did not give anyone right to property, unless that property was integral to their faith. It had also argued that the Ganesh Puja festival was “not so widespread” and that it did not enjoy a “secular and multi-cultural nature”, which Durga Puja did in Bengal. TNN

Karnataka HC allows Ganesh puja at Idgah Maidan

Gururaj Jamkhandi, TNN, Sep 16, 2023: The Times of India

Dharwad: The Dharwad bench of Karnataka HC Friday dismissed petitions seeking to halt installation of Ganesh idol at Idgah Maidan in Hubballi. While four organisations had applied for permission to instal the idol, Anjuman-E-Islam, Hubballi, filed a plea seeking a stay on the Hubballi-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC) general body’s resolution allowing the installation.

Earlier, Suvarna Manikuntla, the leader of the opposition in the HDMC, had also moved court against passing of three resolutions, including the Ganesh idol installation as part of an additional list, in the recently held HDMC general body meeting. Manikuntla had said the additional list was introduced without bringing it to the notice of opposition members.

The single-judge bench of Justice Sachinkumar Ma- gadum, however, dismissed the petitions.

BJP’s Arvind Bellad, the Hubballi-Dharwad West MLA, was on a sit-in demonstration, protesting what he claimed was an inordinate delay on the HDMC commissioner’s part to grant permission for installation of the idol. He alleged the delay was due to pressure from the state’s Congress government.

Since the matter had reached the HC and SC last year, and the top court had given a clear verdict saying Idgah Maidan is HDMC’s property, when the same matter was taken to the Dharwad bench this year, the court straightaway dismissed the petitions.

Parks, public

Ramlila committee’s functions: HC, 2018

Abhinav Garg, Social functions can’t curtail parks’ use: HC, August 4, 2018: The Times of India

Delhi high court ruled that public parks are meant for recreational and other purposes and their use can’t be curtailed in any manner. The court said citizens can’t be robbed of their right to use parks while staying a decision of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which had allowed the local Ramilila committee to hold functions in the district park at Janakpuri.

“Recreational and other uses of parks can’t be curtailed by way of allowing use for cultural, social or commercial functions. The same has the effect of degrading the environment and undermining the utility of parks as a source of recreation for the general public,” Justice Siddharth Mridul noted.

HC was hearing a plea by a Janakpuri resident alleging that civic agencies, including DDA, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and PWD have failed in their statutory obligations to ensure proper use of the sprawling district park at Janakpuri and are letting out it for commercial activities.

Appearing for petitioner Rishu Kant Sharma, advocate Kanwal Chaudhary argued that allowing any function in a public park violates not just Delhi Master Plan, but also runs contrary to the directions of Supreme Court in the celebrated MC Mehta case.

In his plea filed last year, Sharma had sought the court’s intervention to ensure that local children, senior citizens and other residents are able to make use of the district park, which is the green lung of the area. He complained that every now and then DDA grants permission to organisations or individuals to hold religious functions or marriages in the park depriving local residents of their right to access it.

Justice Mridul restrained the DDA from permitting any such functions, be it marriage or social or religious activity. Earlier the Ramlila committee, Janakpuri and Confederation of Janakpuri Association had sought to be heard as a party in Sharma’s plea saying no directions should be passed without hearing their stand on the issue.

HC has taken a dim view of attempts by authorities to tinker with the existing parks in the city. In May, in another petition the court had stayed SDMC from converting a park in Defence Colony on a plea by a resident that several parks in the area were being converted into ornamental parks or parking lots.

The court had sought to know from authorities, including Delhi government and DDA, about the status of available parks in the city indicating there isn’t sufficient green area for citizens. Underlining children’s right to play in public parks, the court pulled up authorities for trying to convert parks into parking lots, saying “where will children go and play.”

Roads, processions on

Can’t prohibit religious processions on roads: HC

A Subramani & D Srikkanth, May 13, 2021: The Times of India

Roads are secular and “any procession, including religious procession, cannot be prohibited or curtailed because another religious group is residing or doing business in the area predominantly,” the Madras high court has said.

As per Section 180-A of the District Municipalities Act, roads and streets, which are “secular,” should be used as roads by all people irrespective of their religion, caste or creed, said a division bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice P Velmurugan.

“If the contention of the private respondent is to be accepted, then it would create a situation in which minority people cannot conduct any festival or procession in most of the areas in India,” the bench said. The judges were hearing a case where Muslim residents of V Kalathur village in Perambalur district, central Tamil Nadu, had objected to processions through Muslim-dominated streets during a three-day temple festival in October 2015.

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