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If more places of worship allowed, no place will be left to reside: Kerala HC

The judge said Kerala is exhausted with religious institutions and prayer halls. There are sufficient number of religious places and prayer halls for all communities in the state even as per the 2011 Census report.

Kerala High Court (File)

The Kerala High Court on Friday rejected a petition seeking to change a commercial building into a Muslim place of worship, observing that “if further religious places and religious prayer halls are allowed in Kerala without any guidelines, there will be no place for citizens to reside”.

The bench of Justice P V Kunhikrishnan was considering a petition of Noorul Islam Samskarika Sangam, Thottekkad, near Nilambar in Malappuram district, which wanted to change a commercial building into a place of worship. The petitioner had listed the Malappuram district collector, the district police chief, local station house officer, village panchayat and a local resident as respondents.

The judge said Kerala is exhausted with religious institutions and prayer halls. There are sufficient number of religious places and prayer halls for all communities in the state even as per the 2011 Census report. “As far as the present case is concerned, there are about 36 mosques situated within 5-kilometre radius from the existing commercial building of the petitioner. Then why another prayer hall for the petitioner is a million-dollar question,’’ the judge said.

Quoting Quran verses, the judge said the verses clearly highlight the importance of mosque to the Muslim community. “But, it is not stated in the above verses of the Holy Quran that mosque is necessary in every nook and corner… It is not stated in the “Hadees” or in the Holy Quran that mosque is to be situated adjacent to the house of every Muslim community member. Distance is not the criteria, but reaching the mosque is important. In the instant case, 36 mosques are available within the vicinity from the commercial building of the petitioner. In such circumstances, there is no need for another mosque in that vicinity,’’ said the judge.

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The judge directed that the chief secretary will issue a separate circular/order prohibiting change of category of a building to a religious place/prayer hall except in inevitable circumstances and in the rarest of rare cases after obtaining reports from authorities concerned. In the order, it should be clearly mentioned that the distance to the nearest similar religious place/prayer hall is one of the criteria while considering the application for religious places and prayer halls. The government should ensure that there is no illegal functioning of any religious places and prayer halls without obtaining permission from the competent authorities.

The court said the government and the local bodies should be vigilant while granting permission for religious places and prayer halls in future. Besides, the change of occupancy of existing buildings from one category to another shall not be allowed in normal cases.

First published on: 26-08-2022 at 05:50:00 pm
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