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Land of religious body can be acquired: HC (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)

Allahabad High Court decision to acquire religious land for public purpose:
The Allahabad High Court has ruled that a land belonging to a religious body can be acquired for a “public purpose” while asking the Church of North India Association and NHAI to “work out modality” for “demolition or shifting” of a church for construction of a six-lane road.

Background:
Church of North India Association filed a plea, which had challenged an August 17, 2012, notification by which four plots of land were acquired in Firozabad district for construction of a by-pass connecting Agra with Etawah.

A bench of judges however, in its December 19-order said that in view of Christmas festivities, the structures should not be demolished “for the period of one month” but thereafter the aggrieved party and the NHAI should “work out modality” for “demolition or shifting” of the same.

Petition filed for the violation of fundamental rights:
1. The association had moved the court contending that the impugned notification “hurts the sentiments and religious conscience of the Christian community” which violated the “right to freedom of religion” and the “freedom to manage religious affairs” guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

2. The petitioner had also argued that the acquisition of the land violated the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act which “safeguards all religious properties”.

Court’s Plea:
The court said that the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act only “bars any person from converting any place of worship of any religious denomination or different religious denomination” and that the “provision had been introduced to see that communal harmony is not disturbed and persons of one religious community may not take on the other.



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