SC to examine TN govt’s 1986 decision giving land to religious structures

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine whether the government can allot land free of cost to any private organisation for construction of religious structures.

A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud decided to hear a petition which has challenged the Tamil Nadu government’s 1986 decision allotting 0.27 acres of land free of cost for construction of a mosque in Ullagaram village near Chennai.

The court said it would be better to settle the larger issue and directed the apex court registry to list all the similar pending petitions before it on March 20.

It was hearing a plea by the Federation of Chennai Suburban (South) Welfare Association which has challenged the state’s September 1986 order in which it had accepted the recommendation of land administration commissioner and had directed transfer of 0.27 acres of land to a Muslim cultural association of Madipakkam in Chennai free of cost for construction of a mosque.

The order stipulated that if no mosque was constructed there within two years, the government would take the land back.

However, this order was challenged in the Madras High Court by a petitioner who had alleged that free allotment of land to a particular community for religious purpose was against the Constitution.

Later, several other petitions were filed in the high court challenging the allotment of land.

The high court had allowed the transfer of land to the cultural association for construction of a mosque taking into account that there were various Muslim families in that area and they had to go to a faraway mosque to offer prayers.

It had observed that merely because the land is allotted for religious purpose it does not change the secular character of the state.

The Federation of Chennai Suburban (South) Welfare Association has moved the apex court challenging the high court order in the matter.