Questioning State’s Commitment to Secularism: Tamil Nadu Govt’s Transference of Land to Muslim Associations

Tamil Nadu government's decision to transfer land free of cost to Muslim Associations questions the State's commitment to the principle of secularism as enshrined in the constitution

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Tamil Nadu, Mar 27, 2017: In September 1986, the Tamil Nadu State Government issued a Government Order transferring the public pond at Ullagaram village in Saidapet taluk free of cost on the condition that the mosque must be constructed within a period of two years, failing which the land would be taken back, as reported by The Hindu.

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This Government order caused the Federation of Chennai Suburban (South) Welfare Association to file a petition against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to transfer, free of cost, 27 acres of “government pond” to Muslim associations for constructing a mosque rose the question. This 9-year old petition questions whether it is against the idea of secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution, for the State to allot government land, one containing a water body, to a particular religious community to construct a place of worship.

The residents had challenged the government order on the ground that a State government cannot show favor to any religion or religious sect or denomination.

The land in question was currently under the possession of the local municipality, which was using it for a public purpose.

The residents moved to the Supreme Court, after failing before the Madras High Court, contending that the provisional transferring of the government pond in favor of the Muslim association for constructing a mosque violated the principle of secularism.

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A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar asked Tamil Nadu represented by advocate B. Balaji, after a detailed hearing, ordered the State to respond in a detailed affidavit within four weeks.

Noting that the 1986 order was provisional in nature and no final allocation has been made so far, the court had said it would examine the controversy behind the State government’s policy.

Prepared by Upama Bhattacharya. Twitter @Upama_myself