NEW DELHI – INDIA’S Supreme Court slapped a ban on Tuesday on the construction of illegal places of worship on public sites such as streets and parks, reports said. Most Indian cities and towns are dotted with illegal worship sites built on roads, parks, railway stations and even schools. Attempts to demolish them often lead to sectarian violence. The two-judge bench ruled in response to a petition by the federal government that challenged a stay on the demolition of sites granted by a lower court in Gujarat state, governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP party.
The federal government argued in its petition that ‘criminals, land mafia and anti-social elements exploit religious sentiments of the people to grab public land through the construction of such places of worship”, the United News of India said. ‘A large chunk of land thus remains under illegal occupation,’ the government petition said, arguing other Indian state governments were unanimous that the menace must end.
Judges Dalbir Bhandari and M. K. Sharma did not order the demolition of existing structures but said district administrators across India should report new land grabbers for action.
They also ordered state and federal authorities to examine temples, churches and mosques already occupying public space in Hindu-majority India which has a large Muslim minority as well as Christian, Sikh, Buddist and Jain populations.
The Supreme Court is to monitor the national anti-encroachment drive. — AFP