Right to freedom of religion subject to public order, says HC – The New Indian Express

By Express press service

MADURAI: Observing that the right to freedom of religion is always subject to public order, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently dismissed a petition filed by a pastor six years ago challenging the order made by the collector of Tirunelveli against the construction of a church less than 100m from three temples in a hamlet of Kalakkad.

Judge R Vijayakumar noted that the collector had rejected the request based on a report submitted by the Superintendent of Police that it could create public order problems in the village, which was then inhabited by nearly 180 Hindu families and 10 Christian families.

The judge observed that the petitioner started building the church in 2010 without getting the collector’s approval which is mandatory under Rule 4(3) of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Building Rules.

It was only after authorities halted construction due to public objections that the claimant approached the collector, who rejected the claims in 2012 and again in 2015, the judge noted.

Referring to article 25 of the Constitution, which provides that the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of profession, practice or propagation of religion is always subordinated to public order, good morals and health and other provisions of Part III of the Constitution, the judge observed, “The right to freedom of religion expressed through congregation in a church is always subject to public order and said constitutional cavalier is incorporated into Rule 4(3) of the Building Rules of Tamil Nadu Panchayat”, and upheld the Collector Order.

MADURAI: Observing that the right to freedom of religion is always subject to public order, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently dismissed a petition filed by a pastor six years ago challenging the order made by the collector of Tirunelveli against the construction of a church less than 100m from three temples in a hamlet of Kalakkad. Judge R Vijayakumar noted that the collector had rejected the request based on a report submitted by the Superintendent of Police that it could create public order problems in the village, which was then inhabited by nearly 180 Hindu families and 10 Christian families. The judge observed that the petitioner started building the church in 2010 without getting the collector’s approval which is mandatory under Rule 4(3) of the Tamil Nadu Panchayat Building Rules. It was only after authorities halted construction due to public objections that the claimant approached the collector, who rejected the claims in 2012 and again in 2015, the judge noted. Referring to article 25 of the Constitution, which provides that the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of profession, practice or propagation of religion is always subordinated to public order, good morals and health and other provisions of Part III of the Constitution, the judge observed, “The right to freedom of religion expressed through congregation in a church is always subject to public order and said constitutional cavalier is incorporated into Rule 4(3) of the Building Rules of Tamil Nadu Panchayat”, and upheld the Collector Order.

Minnie J. Leonard