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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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Supreme Court of India., Wikimedia

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

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US: Supreme Court Blocks Administration’s Effort to Add Citizenship Question on Census

The citizenship question was meant to better enforce the Voting Rights Act

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US, Supreme Court, Citizenship
FILE - Demonstrators protest during a Fair Maps rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court, in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump responded Thursday to the Supreme Court’s decision to block his administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the upcoming U.S. census by saying he’d asked his lawyers whether there was a way to delay the nationwide head count.

In a tweet hours after the court announced its decision, Trump said it “seems totally ridiculous” that the government could not question people about their citizenship on the census, which takes place once every 10 years.

The Supreme Court ruled the administration’s explanation — that the citizenship question was meant to better enforce the Voting Rights Act — was “more of a distraction” from the issue than an explanation.

Opponents of the citizenship question say it would intimidate noncitizens into not answering the census, ultimately leaving them underrepresented in Congress.

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U.S. President Donald Trump responded Thursday to the Supreme Court’s decision to block his administration’s effort. Pixabay

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal justices in the 5-4 ruling.

 The nation’s highest court also announced Thursday that it was rejecting a request to intervene in states’ redistricting efforts.  Redrawing the boundaries of voting districts is meant to ensure proportional representation in state legislatures as the population grows and changes locations.

Republicans in the state of North Carolina and Democrats in the state of Maryland have been accused of redrawing the lines of voting districts to keep power in the hands of the ruling party.

The chief justices said manipulation of the electoral map, a practice known colloquially as gerrymandering, is a problem for state governments to solve, not the Supreme Court.

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Thursday was the final day of rulings by the Supreme Court before its summer break. (VOA)