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Quran does not say mosque is needed in every nook and cranny: Kerala High Court

Author: Giti Pratap
Publication: Barandbench.com
Date: August 26, 2022
URL:      https://www.barandbench.com/news/quran-does-not-state-mosque-is-needed-in-every-nook-and-cranny-kerala-high-court

The Court also issued directions to the State government and police authorities to take steps to ensure that no religious halls are functioning without approval and to maintain communal harmony.

The Kerala High Court on Friday declined to grant permission to construct a mosque at a locality that already had many mosques around, noting that the State already has a large number of religious structures and ratio of religious structures to population is very high. [Noorul Islam Samskarika Sangam v The District Collector & Ors.]

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan opined that Kerala, widely touted as 'God's own country" is crammed full of religious places.

"Because of the peculiar geographical situation of Kerala, it is known as ‘God’s own country’. But we are exhausted with religious places and prayer halls and we are not in a position to allow any new religious places and prayer halls except in the rarest of rare cases," the Court said in its judgment.

Pertinently, the Court observed that even though mosques are important to the Muslim community, it is not necessary as per holy Quran that there be a mosque in every nook and cranny.

In this regard, the Court referred to the verses Juz 10 Surah 18 and Juz 1 Surah 114 of the Holy Our-an and to Clause 1064 of Riyadussaliheen.

"The above verses of the Holy Qur-an, clearly highlights the importance of Mosque to the Muslim community. But it is not stated in the above verses of the Holy Qur-an that Mosque is necessary in every nook and corner......It is not stated in the “Hadees” or in the Holy Qur-an 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," the Court observed.

The Court also referred to a study on religious structures based on the Census of 2011 which it termed as "alarming" as it said that Kerala has 10 times the number of religious structures as villages and 3.5 times the number of hospitals.

"Kerala is exhausted with religious institutions and prayer halls... If every devotee of Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jews, Parsis, etc. start to construct religious places and prayer halls near their residence, the State will face serious consequence including communal disharmony. In this case the intelligence report and the police report says that if the present conversion of the commercial building to a religious prayer hall is allowed, there is chance for communal disharmony. It is a sensitive issue," the Court noted.

In the instant case, since 36 mosques were existing within the vicinity in question, the Court opined that there was no need of another mosque in that vicinity because the adherents of Islam can go to other nearby mosques, especially considering the fact that most citizens have access to some kind of vehicle or public transportation.

"It is true that Article 26(a) of the Constitution of India states that subject to the public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes. That does not mean that they can construct religious places in every nook and corner of the country. Kerala is a very small State", the Court said.

Justice Kunhikrishnan also referred to a movie song by acclaimed port Late Vayalar Ramavarma which speaks of how man created religions, religion created God and together they divided the world and humanity.
Vayalar Ramavarma

"Let the citizens love each other and follow their religious practices according to their religious beliefs. They can do it from their house and if their religion insists that, it should be done together in a prayer hall; they can travel to the nearest mosque instead of constructing another mosque or prayer hall in their neighbourhood....If the poet is alive today, I am sure that the poet will rewrite the second line of the above song as “religion is the creator of religious places”, instead of God," the judgment stated.

The verdict was delivered in a petition moved seeking to change a commercial building to a Muslim place of worship so as to enable Muslims in the vicinity to access a mosque to offer prayers five times a day.

However, the District Collector considered the request and denied the same based on reports the District Police Chief who noted that there are about 36 mosques situated within 5 kilometre radius from the existing commercial building of the petitioner.

This prompted the petitioner to approach the High Court.

The Court went through the 'The Manual of guidelines to prevent and control communal disturbance and to promote communal harmony' issued by the State via a Government Order and found that even for a change of occupancy, the permission from district authorities is necessary.

"Therefore, it is declared that, even for a change of occupancy of a building to a religious place, the Manual of Guidelines is applicable and the approval from the competent authority as per the Manual of Guidelines is necessary", the Court held in its judgment.

It further held that the existence of other religious places or prayer halls nearby is a sufficient ground to reject a request for change of category of a building to a religious place and even to construct a new religious place / prayer hall

In the present case, the Court found no reason to interfere with the decision of the State authorities and dismissed the petition.

Pertinently, before concluding its judgment, the Court deemed it appropriate to invoke its inherent powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and issue the following directions to the State government and Police authorities:

  • The Chief Secretary of State of Kerala and the State Police Chief shall issue necessary orders / circulars directing all the officer concerned to see that there is no illegal functioning of any religious places and prayer halls without obtaining permission from the competent authorities as per the Manual of Guidelines and if any such religious place or prayer hall is functioning without necessary permission, to take necessary steps to close down the same forthwith;

 

  • The Chief Secretary of the State of Kerala will issue necessary orders / circulars directing the competent authority as per the Manual of Guidelines to consider each application to start religious places and prayer halls strictly and the approval can be granted only in appropriate cases. In the order/circular, 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 Chief Secretary of the State of Kerala 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 case, and that also only after getting report from the Police and Intelligence ascertaining the ground realities of that particular place.
 
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