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Building Rules Do Not Permit Conversion Of Residential Building Into A Prayer Hall: Madras High Court Rejects Plea Of Man To Convert Residence To Prayer Hall

Upasana Sajeev
19 Aug 2022 5:13 AM GMT
Building Rules Do Not Permit Conversion Of Residential Building Into A Prayer Hall: Madras High Court Rejects Plea Of Man To Convert Residence To Prayer Hall
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The Madras High Court has recently held that Rule 6(4) of the Tamil Nadu District Municipalities Building Rules 1972 mandates prior permission from the District Collector before construction of a building intended for public worship or religious purposes. The court thus dismissed the petition of a man for converting his residential place into a prayer hall after observing that the necessary permission from the authorities was not sought.

Justice R Vijayakumar noted that the building was located in a residential area and that gathering of such large number of people in a residential area would cause nuisance and difficulty to the residents of the locality.

This is a case where the petitioner is attempting to convert a residential house into a prayer hall. It could also be gathered from the affidavit that the building is located in a residential area. The gathering of a large number of people in the said residential area would cause nuisance and much more difficulty to the residents of the said locality.

It was also observed that Rule 6 (4) of the Tamil Nadu District Municipalities Building Rules 1972 stated that permission had to be obtained from the District Collector before construction of a building intended for public worship or religious purposes. Since what was sought in the present case was a conversion of an already constructed building, this provision would not arise. There was no provision in the Act dealing with conversion of one type of building into another.

The court also considered the report filed by the Superintendent of Police informing the court that 80% of the people in the area were against the prayer hall and that allowing of conversion of a residential house into a prayer hall would result in law and order problem. Noting that both the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police, who were the authorities in respect of law and order problems were of the opinion that conversion would lead to law and order problems, the court thus noted,

In the light of the above said facts, Building Rules do not permit conversion of a residential building into a Prayer Hall. The first respondent after considering the sensitive nature of the locality and the wishes of the 80% of the local people has arrived at an opinion to reject the request of the petitioner. This Court does not find any infirmity or illegality in the impugned order.

The petitioner, who was challenging the order passed by the District Collector refusing to grant permission had contended that he was conducting Church activities from the year 1996 and that general public of the locality of around 93 persons have given no objection for converting the building.

He further submitted that both the Tahsildar and the Revenue Divisional Officer had recommended to the District Collector for conversion of the building. However, the District collector had rejected the said request relying upon the report of the Superintendent of Police. He also submitted that there was no restriction with regard to the distance between two religious places as far as the District of Kanyakumari was concerned.

He contended that there were two other Churches and a Hindu Temple in the locality and when such other religious places already existed, the Collector ought not to have rejected the request of the petitioner.

The Additional Advocate General, on the other hand, submitted that in the aftermath of communal clashes that took place in Mandaikadu of Kanniyakumari District in the year 1982, the Government formed a One Man Committee headed by a former learned Judge of our High Court namely Justice Thiru.P.Venugopal. This committee had recommended that no church or temple should be allowed to come up within close proximity. The Committee had further recommended that prior permission should be obtained to establish any Church or Temple. The above recommendations were incorporated by way of G.O.Ms.No.916 Public ( Law and Order) Department dated 29.04.1986.

The AAG further submitted that the fundamental right of freedom was always subject to public order, morality, and health. In the present case, the order of rejection was granted only after taking into consideration the report of the Superintendent of Police and after conducting a discreet enquiry. Thus, the collector had invoked his power in order to maintain law and order problems in a communal sensitive District.

The court thus found no infirmity in the order of the Collector and thus dismissed the writ finding no merits.

Case Title: Pastor V. Mariya Arockiam v. The District Collector and others

Case No: W.P.(MD).No.11780 of 2012

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 356

Counsel for the Petitioners: Mr.K.Samidurai

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr.S.Shanmugavel Additional Government Pleader

Click here to read/download the judgment


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