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Imphal – Three illegal churches built on Govt land demolished in Imphal East after Court order

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Imphal, Manipur. Manipur is witnessing mushrooming of churches and mosques in different parts of the State. With the increasing momentum of mass conversion, many new churches are emerging in contravention of the Supreme Court’s order to prevent religious structures from eating up public places.

In compliance with the order of the Supreme Court, Manipur Govt. demolished three Churches – Evangelical Baptist Convention Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church Manipur and Catholic Holy Spirit Church – which were illegally built on government land reserved for Government Employee’s quarters.

However, anti-establishment agencies and a few media houses got an opportunity to attack the government. Reports like – “…..Churches Demolished in BJP-Ruled Manipur” demonised the state government while covering up the true account of the story and the pig-headed attitude of the Churches.

When the Churches admitted their wrongdoing, why do people need to gather and perform prayers in the debris after the demolition? Is it the manifestation of their ill intention to create disturbances?

The demolition was done on April 11; however, the Churches know the truth that the structure is illegal and they have to vacate the place sooner or later as the place where the churches were built was on government land which is reserved for the construction of government quarters.

Order passed by the High Court of Manipur on April 4, 2023, by a bench of Acting Chief Justice MV Muralidaran mentioned, “The respondent Churches were built illegally on the Govt. land, which was meant for the construction of Govt. quarters. The respondent Churches admitted that the Churches have been built on Government land.”

However, they still claim that the Churches are in existence since 1974 and 1997 without any objection or interruption till today and therefore they got the prescriptive right of title over the disputed land.

“Such a right claimed by the respondent Churches cannot be appreciated, as no record to show that Churches were built in the Government land after getting approval from the State authorities. Therefore, there is no option but to record that the respondents are ranked encroachers of the Government land,” said the court order.

In compliance with the order of the Supreme Court, the Government of Manipur framed “The Manipur Policy for review of unauthorised construction of Religious Nature on public parks, public places etc. 2010” and constituted State Level Committee for reviewing the unauthorised construction of religious nature and the District Committees headed by District Commissioner/ Chairperson were constituted for removal/relocation/regularisation of such religious structures.

Accordingly, the District Level Committee discussed the existence of nine religious’ structures in Village No.26-Wangkheirakpam Leikai on the land allotted to the PWD Building Division, Govt. of Manipur. Out of nine, five were removed and four are still standing on Dag Nos.410, 411, 412(P), 265, 267(P) and 265(P). Out of the four, two Churches, namely, Evangelical Baptist Convention Church and Peniel Church have come to this Court challenging the eviction notices issued against them.

Under the said policy, the State has regularised some unauthorised constructions on the Government land by giving allotment as they have established their rights for regularisation/relocation, as the case may be and in some cases, the authorities have taken a decision not to regularise the same, as they have no right to stand on the Government land.

It is apposite to mention that the District Level Committee meeting regarding removal/relocation/regularisation of Wangkheirakpam Leikai was held on 24.6.2022 and in the said meeting the Committee unanimously decided to recommend 9 Churches, including the respondent Churches for removal, as the said religious structures were built on the land lying vacant, which was meant for construction of Government quarters, said the Court order.

Since the Supreme Court’s direction is to review the existence of the religious structure on the Government land on a case-to-case basis, the respondent Churches, as a matter of right, cannot claim to stand on the Government land in question without being any right or title over the same, clearly mentioned in the order.

The government quarters at Tribal Colony, New Checkon, were built during the year 1953-1955. At that time, there was no official/registered religious structure at Tribal Colony. Gradually, illegal religious structures were constructed on the land earmarked for the quarters. The land has been recorded now as patta land of Chief Engineer (Buildings) PWD, Manipur, for the construction of Government Residential Quarters.

Courtesy – Organiser

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