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India A Secular Country, A Religious Group In Majority Can't Resist Other Community's Fundamental Right To Hold Religious Processions, Festivals: Madras High Court

Sparsh Upadhyay
9 May 2021 4:34 PM GMT
India A Secular Country, A Religious Group In Majority Cant Resist Other Communitys Fundamental Right To Hold Religious Processions, Festivals: Madras High Court
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"If religious intolerance is going to be allowed, it is not good for a secular country. Intolerance in any form by any religious group has to be curtailed and prohibited," observed the Madras High Court recently. The Bench of Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice P. Velumurugan was dealing with a dispute involving a long-standing dispute between the Hindu and Muslim residents (in a...

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"If religious intolerance is going to be allowed, it is not good for a secular country. Intolerance in any form by any religious group has to be curtailed and prohibited," observed the Madras High Court recently.

The Bench of Justice N. Kirubakaran and Justice P. Velumurugan was dealing with a dispute involving a long-standing dispute between the Hindu and Muslim residents (in a village) over the conduct of certain Hindu festivals/Religious Procession.

Significantly, the Court observed that,

"India is a secular country and merely because one religious group is living in the majority in a particular area, it cannot be a reason for not allowing other religious festivals or processions through that area."

Facts in brief

Right from the year 1951 onwards, there had been a dispute between the two religious groups regarding the usage of 96% of Government Poramboke land

While the Muslims wanted the land to be used as commonplace, the Hindus claimed long use of Poramboke land and objected to its common usage.

Due to this, many clashes took place between the two religious groups with regard to the said site, pursuant to which many cases were also filed against both the groups.

However, till 2011, there was no issue in connection with the conduct of certain Hindu festivals, and three days festivals of the 3 temples were peacefully conducted till the year 2011.

Only from the year 2012 onwards, the Muslims started objecting to some of the Hindu festivals terming them as Sins and contending that the areas were dominated by the Muslim population.

Between 2012 and 2015, the festivals did place, however, with restrictions put in place by the Court through various orders, in view of the petitions filed objecting to the conduct of the festivals

Further, in the year 2018, an order was passed by the Revenue Divisional Officer allowing which, in effect, allowed the conduct of the festivals, subject to certain conditions and these conditions, in turn, were challenged in the High Court.

The Madras High Court, while allowing the festivals to conducted, put in place allowed certain conditions, however, these were challenged before the Division bench (present matter).

Court's observations

At the outset, the Court observed that as per Section 180-A of the District Municipalities Act 1920, roads or streets should be used as access to the people irrespective of their religion, caste, or creed.

The Court also noted that all along there had been religious tolerance and the religious festivals were conducted very smoothly and religious procession were conducted without any problem through all the streets and roads of the village.

Further, allowing the three days festival of the 3 temples of the village, the Division Bench, also imposed certain conditions: on the following terms, i.e.

" There shall be a direction to the authorities to permit the Hindus to conduct two processions on the first and second day of the village temple festivals through all the streets and roads which have been conducted till 2015. As far as the procession on the third day of temple festival is concerned, the petitioner himself accepted that Hindus would not conduct the procession in which the turmeric water would be sprinkled."

However, the Court did not stop there and issued the following observations:

  • Merely because one religious group is dominating in a particular locality, it cannot be a ground to prohibit from celebrating religious festivals or taking processions of other religious groups through those roads.
  • If it is to be accepted, then a day will come when a particular religious group which is predominantly occupying the area, will not allow the people belonging to other religious groups even to use the roads even for movement, transportation or the normal access.
  • Even the marriage processions and funeral processions would be prohibited/prevented which is not good for our society.
  • The temples are there for decades together. Merely because a religious group got settled in a locality and has become vociferous, they cannot object to the custom of taking Temple's procession through all the streets in the Village and consequent upon their objections, the customary and traditional practices cannot be prevented or prohibited.
  • In this case, intolerance of a particular religious group is exhibited by objecting for the festivals which have been conducted for decades together and the procession through the streets and roads of the village are sought to be prohibited stating that the area is dominated by Muslims and therefore, there cannot be any Hindu festival or procession through the locality.
  • If resistance is being exhibited by one religious group and it is reciprocated by the other religious groups, there would be chaos, riots, religious fights causing loss of lives and destruction of properties. Consequently, the secular character of our country will be destroyed or damaged.

Court's order

  • Once it has been declared by the authorities as roads or streets as per Section 180-A of the District Municipalities Act, the roads and streets, which are "secular", should be used as roads by all the people irrespective of their religion, caste or creed.
  • Any procession including the religious procession shall be conducted through all the roads and streets without any restriction.
  • Any procession including the religious procession cannot be prohibited or curtailed merely because another religious group is residing or doing business in the area predominantly.
  • There cannot be a prohibition for any procession including religious processions through roads by the District administration or police authorities and there can be only regulation by the police or other Government authorities to see that no untoward incident occurs or any law-and-order problem arises.
  • Every religious group has got fundamental right to take out a religious procession through all the roads without insulting the other religious sentiments and without raising any slogans against other religious groups, affecting their sentiments, public law, and order.
  • Merely because there is one place of worship belonging to another religious group, the same cannot be a ground to decline/deny permission to conduct procession including the religious procession of other religions to go through those roads or streets.
  • The presence of religious structures/places of worship cannot take away the right of other religious groups who have been enjoying all the rights including the conduct of religious procession for the past many years.
  • The criminal cases filed against both the parties are directed to be withdrawn.

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