|1. Budhan Chowdhary V. State of Bihar
2. Wickrematunga Vs. Anuruddha Ratwatte (1998) 1 SLR 201
FR Application dismissed.
S.C (FR) Application No.92/2016
An application was made to the 1st Respondent, Bandaragama Pradeshiya Sabha for a development plan to put up a two storeyed school building on a land owned by the 1st Petitioner (President of the Board of Trustees of the Wekada, Jumma Mosque). The 1st Respondent approved the application and issued a development permit dated 21.04.2008. On completion of the ground floor, the Petitioner commenced the school.
On or about 2015, the Petitioners commenced the construction of the 1st floor. The 2nd Respondent (Secretary of the Bandaragama Pradeshiya Sabha) informed the 1st Petitioner, via a letter dated 01.06.2015, that the development permit given earlier had lapsed and a fresh permit should be obtained. The letter also stated that the Petitioners are constructing a slab instead of a roof, which is objectionable and contrary to the building plan. The Petitioners plead by letter dated 18.09.2015 sent by the 2nd Respondent, that complaints were received from residents in the area.
The Petitioners were requested by the 2nd Respondent to attend a meeting at 2.30p.m on 25.09.2015. On the said day of the meeting residents in the area were not present and the meeting was postponed for 14.10.2015. On that date Petitioners, a few other participants of the Jumma Mosque and 2 Priests were present at the meeting.
Main concern of the residents and Priest was that the a mosque was constructed instead of a school to be used as a Dhamma School. Petitioner’s position was that the building would be used only for the school and not for a Mosque. Based on the discussion, the 2nd Respondent requested the Petitioner to address a letter to the 2nd Respondent signed, stating that the purpose of construction was for the school only and to obtain approval for same. Petitioner’s position was that they had no alternative but to sign the said letter and they complain that the letter also included certain clauses and thus take away the Petitioner’s fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 10 and 14(1)(e) of the Constitution.
On 25.01.2016 amended plan was submitted to the 1st Respondent and on 25.01.2016 same was approved by the 1st and 2nd Respondents (development plan).
On the same day (12.02.2016) that the concrete slab was to be laid, the 2nd Respondent served a letter on the 1st Petitioner via a Senior Police Officer, directing the Petitioner to suspend the construction as the residents and Buddhists monks protested.
On the request of the Petitioners a discussion was held with the Petitioners, representatives of the Mosque and Buddhist Monks at the office of the Headquarter Inspector of Police, Panadura. The Senior Superintendent of Police of the area informed the participants that facts would have to be reported to the Magistrate to prevent a breach of peace.
Proceedings in the Magistrate’s court was not instituted as the residents were not present.
On 12.02.2016, the police handed over a letter to the 1st Petitioner to the effect that the construction was for the purpose of a place of worship and not for a school and it cannot be done without proper approval and requested the Petitioner to stop construction works.
Petitioners made attempts to go ahead with the construction works by having discussions with the authorities concerned but without success.
FoRB violation – Manifestation: worship, observance, practice, teaching; Discrimination
Initially the Petitioners were given a permit to construct for a purpose. The material placed before court indicate that the real purpose of the Petitioners, seems to be to have a Mosque, instead of a school. The villagers, residents and Buddhist Monks vehemently protested for any further construction for a different purpose. The official respondents had to take steps to avoid and avert any breach of peace.
I cannot conclude that the Petitioners were denied equal protection of the law. Certainly I cannot fathom as to whether there was a violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental rights. What is necessary should be done to avoid a crisis situation which could spread to other areas of our country.
The guarantee of equal protection of the law must mean protection of equal laws. Judicial decisions must of necessity depend on the facts and circumstances of each particular case, and what may superficially appear to be an unequal application of the law may not necessarily amount to a denial of equal protection of law unless there is shown to be present in it an element of intentional and purposeful discrimination.
Respondents’ acts do not suggest any form of discrimination based on race.
Respondents have not violated Article 12(1) of the Constitution.
Material indicates a continuous protest, which the authorities considered and gave due consideration in arriving at a decision to suspend the construction works. Petitioners’ party seems to have deliberately violated the agreement to put up a school. The prayer to the petition does not call upon the Buddha Sasana Ministry to quash the relevant circulars issued by the Ministry. Therefore I cannot conclude that the Respondents acted contrary to circulars.
According to the Circular Circular No. MBRA/2-SAD/10/Con.Gen/2013 (3A R4 (e)) any person who constructs a Dharmma School has to obtain the approval of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The Petitioners had not obtained the approval of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Learned President’s Counsel for the Petitioner tried to contend that this Circular does not come within the interpretation of law.