In its recent order, the Madras High Court refused to interfere with a Government order for free distribution of raw rice to mosques, during the holy month of Ramzan.
The Government of Tamil Nadu, on April 16, had issued a public order for supply of 5,450 tonnes of rice free of cost to 2,895 mosques in the state during the month of Ramzan, so that gruel may be prepared and given to those who fast.
Affirming the legality of this order, a bench of Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar denied the prayer of an organization namely 'Hindu Munnani' for quashing of this order.
The bench relied on Prafull Goradia v. Union of India, (2011) 2 SCC 568, whereby the Supreme Court had examined the scope of Article 27 of the Constitution in the context of granting support to Haj pilgrims. The top court had held,
"As per the counter-affidavit, the Government was not averse to the idea of granting support to a pilgrimage conducted by any community as for example when the Government incurs some expenditure for the Kumbh or for facilitating Indian Citizens going on pilgrimage to Mansarovar, or visit temples and gurdwaras in Pakistan. Thus there is no discrimination."
In light of this decision, the High Court disallowed the Petitioner's prayer, which the bench remarked, had proceeded on 'religious lines'.
Highlighting the secular nature of our country that allows the government to support all religious groups, the High Court reiterated the words of Supreme Court,
"It is due to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers that the Constitution of India is secular and caters to the tremendous diversity. It is the greatness of our Founding Fathers that they kept a cool head during the 1947 Partition an decided to declare India a secular country instead of a Hindu country. This is why despite all its tremendous diversity the only policy which can work and provide for stability and progress is secularism and giving equal respect to all communities, sect, denominations, etc."
As regards the other prayer seeking extension of the benefit under this scheme to other marginalized groups in the society, the court has issued notices to the concerned authorities of the state.
During the course of hearing, the bench also noted that the Petitioner-organization had not made any statement regarding it being a registered organization and hence, for the petition being one in public interest, decided to assume that the petition has been filed by the individual, who said to be the Secretary of the said organization.
The matter is now listed for consideration on May 7.
Case Title: Hindu Munnani v. State of Tamil Nadu (and another connected matter)
Case No.: WP No.7500/2020
Quorum: Justice M. Sathyanarayanan and Justice M. Nirmal Kumar
Appearance: Advocates T. Annamalai and A. Venkatesh Kumar (for Petitioners); Government Pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayana (for State)
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