Religious functions on public land: India

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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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