The High Court is facing an acute crunch of space
One cannot claim right to erect structures in the name of religion in an unauthorized manner over public land or over land of others
The High Court is not obliged, nor expected, under the Constitution, to extend patronage to any particular religion.
The Allahabad High Court, while directing a Wakf which it found to have encroached the High Court’s property and constructed a religious structure on it, has issued directive to its Registrar General to ensure that in future no part of the High Court premises, either at Allahabad or at Lucknow, is permitted to be used for practicing religion or offering prayers or to worship or to carry on any religious activity by any group of persons.
The Bench of the Chief Justice Dilip B. Bhosale and Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta also told the Wakf management, mostly consisting of the lawyers practicing in the High Court, to voluntarily comply with the order, and also convince the members of their community to graciously accept and comply the directions and not to indulge in any wrong/untoward activity. The Bench, also directed the State/District Administration to deal with application sympathetically the allotment of an alternative site, if the Wakf prefers such an application.
The Bench in its 175 paged judgment, remarked: “While a citizen has complete freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion of his choice, he cannot claim right to erect structures in the name of religion in an unauthorized manner over public land or over land of others “
The Court was considering a PIL by an Advocate Abhishek Shukla in which he alleged that a Wakf has encroached on the High Court's property, whereon a religious structure, called “Masjid High Court” has been constructed without permission of the local authority.
The Court observed: “Construction of the Mosque by encroaching on the property of the Institution called Judiciary/High Court, would send a wrong message/signal and it may even give an impression to the people at large that the High Court has built a Mosque and provided this facility to a religious group or to people belonging to a particular religion. This would also be interpreted to mean that the High Court cannot protect its own property from being encroached. The High Court is not obliged, nor expected, under the Constitution, to extend patronage to any particular religion. The High Court is neither pro any particular religion nor anti any particular religion and it is expected to stand aloof, and maintain neutrality in matters of religion and provide equal protection to all religions when it examines any matter on the judicial side or even on the administrative side for that matter. For the High Court, the religion, faith or belief of a person is immaterial. To it, all are equal and all are entitled to be treated equally.”
The Court also remarked: “The courts in India are often described as 'temple of justice', where litigants worship for justice and judges play a role of angel/agents of the Goddess of Justice. The role of lawyers is like a 'pujari' in temple, 'maulavi' in mosque, 'granthi' in gurudwara and clergymen in church, and when they perform their role, in the course of hearing of a case, they belong to only one religion called “Nyay Dharma”, which can also be described as 'justicism', where they study science of law/justice and render assistance to do justice. As is the ecclesiastical law sacrosanct to the followers of a religion, cult or faith, so is the Constitution and the Laws to the judge, lawyers and litigants.”
(a) Respondent No.7-Waqf, shall handover vacant and peaceful possession of the site in dispute to respondent no.1-High Court, within a period of three months from today.
(b) Respondent no.7, however, shall handover vacant possession of the portion of the site in dispute, to the extent of 6 meters from the corner of the last staircase on the rear side of the Annexe Building (shown as D G F E in the map accompanied their letter 173. dated 1.9.2016, i.e. Annexure-15 to the counter affidavit dated 18.4.2017 filed by respondent no.7 and as agreed by them, which is duly recorded in the order dated 20.7.2017), within two weeks from today; the said map being made part of this judgment.
(c) We also direct members of the Committee of Management (respondent no.7-Waqf), most of whom are the lawyers practicing in this Court, to obey/abide by this order, and handover vacant and peaceful possession of the site in dispute within the stipulated time.
(d) It is needless to mention that while complying the directions (a), (b) and (c), as aforementioned, respondent no.7/members of the Committee of Management, while handing over possession of the site in dispute, shall also remove all structures standing on the said portion.
(e) If respondent nos. 7 and 9, make an application to the State/ District Administration, within four weeks from today, seeking allotment of an alternative site, we direct the State/District Administration to deal with the application sympathetically, in accordance with law, within eight weeks from the date of the application.
(f) In case respondent no.7 and members of the Committee of Management fail to comply with any part of the directions (a) and (b) within the stipulated time, respondent nos.2 to 5 shall take forcible possession of the entire site in dispute from respondent nos.7 or anyone claiming through them or independently and for such purpose, it shall be open to them to seek police assistance or any other help as may be required for complying this order. Respondent nos.2 and 3 are directed to provide all possible help to respondent nos. 4 and 5 and to ensure that the site in dispute is made free from all unauthorised encroachments and its possession is handed over to respondent no.1 within one month therefrom.
(g) Respondent no.9 shall forthwith delete the words 'High Court' from the registration certificate issued to respondent no.7. Respondent no.7 is injuncted forthwith from using the name of High Court in its name or in any manner representing before any authority or person that the alleged Waqf is in any manner connected with or has the patronage of the High Court.
(h) The Registrar General of this Court is directed to ensure that in future no part of the High Court premises, either at Allahabad or at Lucknow, is permitted to be used for practicing religion or offering prayers or to worship or to carry on any religious activity by any group of persons.
Read the Judgment Here