Allahabad: The Allahabad High Court has held that government can acquire land for religious worship and convert it for “benefit of public at large”.
The Court , however, while disposing of the petition took a liberal view observed that demolition of a church on Christmas eve would be “too harsh” and stayed demolition of church for a month. It has directed NHAI and petitioner to demolish/shift Church and graveyard after that period.
The Bench comprising justice VK Shukla and justice MC Tripathi passed the above order in a petition filed by Church Of North India Trust Association which challenged the acquisition of land.
Petitioner’s contention was that NHAI has acquired land for the purpose of construction of 6-lane Agra-Etawah bye-pass on NH-2 passing through UP and land of Church is also acquired during this exercise. However, The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Acts, 1991, prohibit conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of its religious character.
The Bench rejected this contention of the petitioner and was of the view that ‘the place of worship Act’ put restrictions on conversion of the place of worship of one community or section to religious place of worship of the other community.
It is to recall that NHAI is constructing 6-lane Agra-Etawah bye-pass on NH-2 passing through UP and in this course it has also acquired land of Memorial Church Shikohabad District Firozabad’ in which Christian worship takes place even till date. Adjacent to the church, there is also a Christian graveyard.