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The bench opined, "We feel that no litigant can be permitted to seek a direction upon the Government to establish a dedicated place for professing religious practices in an airport"
The Gauhati High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought establishment of a dedicated prayer room at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, ruling that no fundamental rights of the petitioner were being violated by the lack of a separate prayer room at the airport.
The division bench comprising Chief Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Kardak Ete emphasized that the Indian Constitution's Articles 25 and 26 grant freedom for people to practice their religion and acquire and manage religious properties, but this does not extend to demanding a dedicated prayer facility in a public place like an airport.
The petitioner argued that travelers of various religions passing through Guwahati Airport lacked access to a proper prayer room available at many other airports across the country, including Delhi International Airport, Mumbai International Airport, Mangalore Airport, and Agartala Airport.
The bench opined, "We feel that no litigant can be permitted to seek a direction upon the Government to establish a dedicated place for professing religious practices in an airport."
In view of the above, the high court stated, "By not providing a similar facility at the precincts of Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati, no fundamental right of the petitioner is being breached."
The petitioner relied on Supreme Court judgments to argue that Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and the right to practice and propagate religion, not only to citizens but to every person. The petitioner further argued that the Constitution guarantees religious denominations or sections the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
The Gauhati High Court, however, emphasized that the government or the Airport Authority of India has the discretion to determine the need for specific facilities to serve those accessing the airport, especially when the request pertains to a religious facility. The court stated that the high court's extraordinary writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution could not interfere with the government's policy decisions. As a result, the PIL was dismissed for lacking merit.
The court's decision reaffirms the principle that while the Constitution protects religious freedom, it does not require the government to establish dedicated prayer facilities in public places such as airports.
Case Title: RANA SAIDUR ZAMAN VS. UNION OF INDIA & ORS.
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