HC rejects plea to hold prayers at residence

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Madurai, Apr 29 (PTI) The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday rejected a plea from a Christian to hold prayer meetings at his residential building, saying even a religious right cannot be claimed to be absolute.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh dismissed the petition from T Wilson of Aruvikarai village in Kanyakumari district.

The judge said that the moment the exercise of such a right affects the rights of others, it must be subjected to reasonable restriction.

The rights enjoyed by the citizens, including the fundamental rights, must coexist in harmony.

In the present case, the right of worship that is claimed by the petitioner directly impacts the rights of his neighbours, as explained in the report of the Kanyakumari district Collector.

Once the prayer meeting assumes such larger proportions resulting in public worship attended by huge crowds, the very nature of the building changes and it has to be construed as a prayer hall entertaining public worship.

Consequently, the same would require obtaining necessary permission under the relevant rules.

The petitioner sought to restrain the district administration from interfering with his right to practice his religion by conducting prayer meetings at his residence.

The fact that the petitioner has now come up with an undertaking to the effect that the building will not be used as a prayer hall for public worship only shows that it was put to such use in the past.

Even though the petitioner has come up with a statement that the building will only be used for conducting prayer meetings, going by his past conduct, this Court is not in a position to repose any faith in him, the judge said.

'Therefore, the petitioner has to necessarily conduct such prayer meetings in future only after obtaining necessary permission/approval under the relevant rules from the appropriate authority,' the judge said and dismissed the petition. PTI CORR SA BN BALA BN BALA