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State's Survey Of Christian Churches Affronts The 'Secular Fabric'; Says PIL Challenging Letter By Directorate Of Minorities, Karnataka HC To Hear On Monday

Mustafa Plumber
23 Oct 2021 11:52 AM GMT
States Survey Of Christian Churches Affronts The Secular Fabric; Says PIL Challenging Letter By Directorate Of Minorities, Karnataka HC To Hear On Monday
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“The vagueness of the impugned letter has escalated the level of anxiety amongst the Christian community as they are being targeted and subjected to threats, abused and harassed by fundamentalist forces,” the plea states.

The Karnataka High Court will on Monday (October 25) hear a petition filed challenging the communication issued by the State government dated July 7, seeking to collect information about churches in the state. A division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum directed the counsel for petitioner People's Union For Civil Liberties to furnish...

The Karnataka High Court will on Monday (October 25) hear a petition filed challenging the communication issued by the State government dated July 7, seeking to collect information about churches in the state.

A division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum directed the counsel for petitioner People's Union For Civil Liberties to furnish the translation copy of Annexures-A to C of the petition and posted the matter for further hearing on October 25.

The petition states that the letter dated July 7, issued by the state government (Directorate of Minorities), is devoid of reasons, amounting to discrimination and being violative of the right to privacy of a large section of the population in the state, guaranteed in the Constitution of India.

Further, the plea states "The survey intends to collect data related to the churches' location, by noting down the name of the district, taluk and vidhan sabha constituency. Name of the institute and address, khata number, survey number and finally the details of the pastor/father of the church."

The impugned letter does not explain the purpose of collecting information about churches. Neither does it explain why such information relating to only churches is being collected to the exclusion of other communities or even other minorities. The impugned letter does not mention the objective of gathering information and what purpose/rationale is behind collecting data of such nature under those specific heads. "Such an exercise is not rooted in any law authorising the respondents to collate information of such nature," the petition says.

It is also said that the letter does not specify or mention the details of the concerned authority responsible for information collection, collating and processing, overseeing the use of such information and protecting the data put together by the respondents. "The vagueness of the impugned letter has escalated the level of anxiety amongst the Christian community as they are being targeted and subjected to threats, abused and harassed by fundamentalist forces," it says.

The plea also says that the Karnataka Minorities Commission Act, 1994 contains no provisions that empower the Commission, let alone any other state apparatus or instrumentality to collect or maintain data about churches in Karnataka, in the manner that has been attempted by the respondents.

The petition states that the impugned communication seeking to collect information about the churches is illegal, discriminatory, void, arbitrary, unconstitutional and liable to be quashed as being violative of the right of equality and privacy under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The communication does not have any legislative backing and are not authorised by any legislation, order, bye-law, rule regulation or notification and therefore are liable to be quashed as unconstitutional. Further, it is said the impugned communications are an affront to the secular fabric of our nation and are in gross violation of the basic feature of secularism embedded in the ethos of our constitution.

The plea pray's for directions to declare that communication dated July 7 and July 9 as illegal, void and unconstitutional. It also seeks directions to the respondents to formulate fair and equitable mechanisms and systems to protect the interest of minorities.

By way of interim relief, it is sought to stay the operation of the impugned letters and direct the respondents not to take any coercive action pursuant to or under the impugned communications. The plea also seeks to protect and safeguard all the information/data already collected pursuant to the impugned communications in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy case and principles enshrined in the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.

Case Title: People Union For Civil Liberties And State Of Karnataka

Case No: WP 18661/2021.


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