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India: Worship on streets not a fundamental right says Bombay High Court

Thursday 25 June 2015, by siawi3


25 June 2015

[reports from Hindustan Times and The Indian Express follow]


India: Worshipping on streets not a fundamental right — Bombay HC

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai | Updated: Jun 24, 2015

Worshiping idols at public places is not a fundamental right, the Bombay high court said on Wednesday, when it made more stringent the norms allowing temporary pandals to be set up for festivals such as dahi handi, Navratri and Ganeshotsav on public roads and footpaths.

“No citizen has a fundamental right to worship God at a public place, unless that place is of particular significance for the religion concerned,” the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Revati Mohite-Dere said.

That citizens have the fundamental right to walk on roads and footpaths that are in good condition should be considered by the municipal commissioners while using their discretionary powers to grant permission for putting up temporary pandals on roads and footpaths, the judges said.

The court also asked all district collectors to form teams headed by tehsildars or other revenue officers to visit municipal areas at least seven days before a major festival and inform the civic chief concerned if they notice an illegal pandal put up in public places.

The court also directed local police stations to provide protection to the civic staff.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Dr Mahesh Bedekar. Bedekar had complained about rules and regulations were not followed while festivals such as Ganeshotsav, Navratri and dahi Handi were being organised in the Thane. He said no action by authorities, even if after citizens complained about the violations.

Acting on the PIL, the court had earlier said municipal commissioners cannot exercise their discretionary powers to grant permissions for such pandals and structures, if it violates the fundamental right of citizens by obstructing traffic on busy streets or the movement on footpath. During the hearing on Wednesday, the bench pulled up the state government for its “complete failure” to comply with the directions issued by the court earlier.

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Right to practise religion does not extend to every place: Bombay High Court


The court held that the right to roads kept in reasonable conditions is fundamental and the commissioner was bound to consider that.

Mumbai | Published on:June 25, 2015 2:58 am

Citing an apex court judgment, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday said that the fundamental right of practising or professing religion did not extend to “any and every place.”

Justices A S Oka and Revati Mohite Dere were hearing a public interest litigation on noise pollution during festivals filed by Dr Mahesh Bedekar who runs a hospital in Thane. The PIL also raises the issue of pandals erected by organisers without requisite permission.

Earlier, the HC had said that those who organised religious and other festivals should not take away the fundamental rights of citizens to silence. The HC had then asked state to provide a redressal mechanism for receiving complaints on noise pollution and directed demolition of temporary booths or platforms erected on roads, without permission.

According to the HC, the government has completely failed to abide by its directions or orders of the Supreme Court which are binding on them.

“The government has taken our directions casually. In the two months after our last order, the government has only notified principal secretaries of various departments. The chief secretary should file an affidavit with names and designation of officials who have breached orders, so that contempt proceedings can be commenced,” said
the HC.

Observing that municipal commissioners could grant permission for construction of temporary pandals during Ganpati or Navratri Utsav, the court said that such structures should not be erected on roads and pavements.

“According to the order, no citizen can claim fundamental right to worship God or offer prayer at any and every place, unless it is a significant place of worship,” the court said.

The court held that the right to roads kept in reasonable conditions is fundamental and the commissioner was bound to consider that.

The court also directed revenue officers to ask tehsildars to visit places seven days prior to start of festivals and check if any temporary pandals had been erected without permission and inform the commissioner about the same, during major festivals.