Church of North India trust Association
Union of India
(2016 SCC OnLine All 1185, decided on 19.12.2016)
In the present case the petitioner, Bishop of the Church contented that Section 3 of the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 prohibits conversion of a place of worship of any religious denomination, in view of which the said acquisition by NHAI (National Highway Authority Of India) for extending of 4 lane road to 6 lane highway, should be annulled. (Land belonging to religious bodies not exempted from acquisition for public welfare works.
ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT
- Whether the church can be demolished?
2. Whether any religious property can be acquired for public welfare works?
It was held that land belonging to religious bodies can be acquired by the government if the purpose for which it is acquired is a public purpose. Hence the said acquisition which is for public purpose cannot be annulled according to the provision of said Act. The petitioner also contended that such acquisition is violative of Article 25 (right to freedom of religion) and Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs).
The Court observed that Article 26 guarantees inter alia the right to own and acquire movable and immovable property for managing religious affairs. This right, however, cannot take away the right of the State to compulsorily acquire property in accordance with the provisions of Article 31(2).