July 20, 2020, Monday
The Karnataka High Court has held that the fundamental right to religion as provided under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution does not extend to offering prayer at each and every place, and to the protection of a place of worship that has been built illegally on a public place. A Division Bench of the court comprising of Chief Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice M Nagaprasanna added that the right to construct an unauthorized temple cannot be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution, as the same does not amount to essential religious practice.
The court while considering the writ petition which highlighted the failure of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to demolish an unauthorized temple built on a footpath, stated that “The fundamental right under Article 25 of Constitution of India does not extend to offering worship or prayers at each and every place. Surely, the fundamental right under Article 25 of the Constitution of India cannot be invoked for protecting an illegal structure of a temple which is on a footpath. The right to construct unauthorized temples and that also on a footpath cannot be said to be an essential part of any religion or religious practice which can be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.”
The court also severely criticized a Residents Welfare Association which interfered in the writ petition seeking for the protection of the said temple. The Court observing the same stated that “The duty of the citizens is to see that no illegal structure and especially, illegal religious structure comes up in their locality”. The Court also imposed a cost of Rs. 25,000 on the members of the Residents Welfare Association and the same was directed to be deposited with the Chief Minister’s COVID-19 relief fund within a period of six weeks.
The Court while observing that the authorities did not take action of demolition, specified that they are not passing any adverse order against BBMP considering the lockdown in the city.
However, it reminded the BBMP of its legal obligations.
The next hearing of this matter will be on the 30th of July.