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Kerala HC orders to close down illegal religious places, prayer halls

The Kerala High Court on Friday ordered closing down of religious places constructed illegally, observing that the number of places of worship in the southern State is almost 3.5 times more than the number of hospitals there.In the judgement, Justice P V Kunhikrishnan quoted few verses (Juz 1 Surah 114) from the Holy Quran, which […]

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The Kerala High Court on Friday ordered closing down of religious places constructed illegally, observing that the number of places of worship in the southern State is almost 3.5 times more than the number of hospitals there.

In the judgement, Justice P V Kunhikrishnan quoted few verses (Juz 1 Surah 114) from the Holy Quran, which were referred to by a counsel during the hearing of the case, to observe that it does not mean ”Mosque is necessary in every nook and corner.” ”These verses of the Holy Quran clearly highlight the importance of mosque to the Muslim community. But, it is not stated in those verses that Mosque is necessary in every nook and corner,” the Court said quoting the verses (Juz 1 Surah 114) mentioned by the counsel.

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The court issued the order while disposing of a plea filed by a Society called Noorul Islam Samskarika Sangam seeking to convert a commercial building at Amarambalam Grama Panchayat into a Muslim place of worship at a village near Nilambur in Malappuram district.

”The Chief Secretary of State of Kerala and the State police chief shall issue necessary orders/circulars directing all the officers concerned to see that there is no illegal functioning of any religious places and prayer halls without obtaining permission from the competent authorities as per the Manual of Guidelines and if any such religious place or prayer hall is functioning without necessary permission, take necessary steps to close down the same forthwith”, the order said.

Also, the court directed the government to issue a separate circular/order prohibiting change of category of a building to a religious place/prayer hall except in inevitable circumstances and in the rarest of rare cases, and that also only after getting a report from the police and the Intelligence ascertaining the ground realities of that particular place.

It further directed the Chief Secretary to issue necessary orders/circulars directing the competent authority as per the Manual of Guidelines to consider each application to start religious places and prayer halls strictly and the approval can be granted only in appropriate cases. In the order/circular, it should be clearly mentioned that the distance to the nearest similar religious place /prayer hall is one of the criteria while considering the application for religious places and prayer halls, it said.

”Because of the peculiar geographical location of Kerala, it is known as ‘God’s own country’. But we are exhausted with religious places and prayer halls and we are not in a position to allow any new religious places and prayer halls except in the rarest of rare cases,” the High Court said.

The court observed that the Society sought to change the commercial building into a Muslim place of worship at a place where there are about 36 mosques within a 5-km radius of this building and ”then why another prayer hall for the petitioner is a million dollar question.” The petitioner moved the court after the district authorities rejected its demand.

”Even then the petitioner wants another place of worship for the reason that ‘five times prayer’ is necessary for a Muslim and therefore, a prayer hall is necessary within the vicinity of every Muslim. If this is allowed then in every nook and corner of the State, place of worship and prayer halls would be necessary”, the court said while doing a detailed consideration of the matter.

In its order, the court, referring to 2011 census report, said there are a sufficient number of religious places and prayer halls to all the communities in the State. According to 2011 census, there are 1018 villages in Kerala, along with 87 Municipalities and 6 Municipal Corporations sharing 1,01,140 places of worship along with 29,565 hospitals. The number of places of worship in Kerala is almost 3.5 times higher than the number of hospitals in Kerala. ”Therefore, if further religious places and religious prayer halls are allowed in Kerala without any guidelines, there will be no place for the citizens to reside,” the court said.

The court said the government and the local bodies should be vigilant while granting permission for religious places and prayer halls in future.

Observing that the construction of a commercial building and construction of a religious place is entirely different, the court said in a State like Kerala, the category change from one category to religious place is not necessary unless there are sufficient reasons for the same. ”If any building is used for religious purposes when the building is constructed for some other purpose, stringent action should be taken by the police authorities and the State,” it said.

If every Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jews, and Parsis among others starts to construct religious places and prayer halls near his or her residence, the State would face consequences such as communal disharmony, the court said. ”In this case the Intelligence report and the police report say that if the present conversion of the commercial building to a religious prayer hall is allowed, there is a chance for communal disharmony. It is a sensitive issue,” the court said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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