Bombay High Court: Observing that construction of illegal shrines on pathways and streets was in no way an integral part of any religion so as to be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution, a Bench comprising of Abhay Oka and Ahmed Sayed, JJ ordered the State Government to demolish all such structures that have been identified as “illegal” by the year end. The Court was hearing a PIL which sought implementation of a 2009 Supreme Court order which said that the State must demolish or regularise illegal shrines.
The Bench stated that Article 25 of the Constitution, which pertains to practise and propagation of religion, does not confer the right to offer worship at any place which has been built illegally. The Bench also made reference to the Supreme Court ruling in Sodan Singh v. NDMC(1989) 4 SCC 155, wherein the Court had expressly stated that no one can create any unreasonable obstruction on the road, which may cause inconvenience to other persons having a similar right to pass. The Court reiterated that structures that cause inconvenience to public, violate Article 21 of the Constitution.
No religion encourages its followers to construct illegal shrines or offer prayers at illegally-constructed shrines, the Court stated and thereby directed the government to initiate criminal action against people, especially religious or political leaders, who try to obstruct the demolition. The Court also asked the Police Commissioners of Mumbai and other cities to provide adequate protection to the civic staff during the demolition. [Mahesh Vijay Bedekar v. State of Maharashtra, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 8894, decided on September 20, 2016]

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