On Thursday (7 September), the Bombay High Court observed that building a Haj house is a “secular activity, not religious”. The court made this observation while hearing a plea filed by a Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote who is associated with the Samast Hindu Aghadi.
Notably, Ekbote had filed a petition seeking to demolish a Haj house in Pune which is currently under construction.
While hearing his plea, the court said, “You must differentiate between the indulgence of the state in religious activity and secular activity. Construction of the Haj house is a secular activity. It is not a religious activity. Do not confuse yourself.”
The matter was heard by the two-judge bench comprising Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor. The bench observed that the petitioner had no personal interest in the case and converted Ekbote’s writ petition into a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
Advocate Kapil Rathod representing Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote argued before the court that there had been a “change in land use” as the site was reserved for providing basic amenities to people in and around the Kondhwa area of Pune.
He added that the land use had been changed to construct the Haj house. He pressed that the construction of a Haj house comes under “religious activity” and that it was “not acceptable in the current scenario”.
While presenting his argument, Rathod said, “How come only one community gets the benefit? There are lakhs of devotees who come to Pandharpur but nothing is done for them.”
However, Pune Municipal Corporation, represented by advocate Abhijit Kulkarni claimed that the land use was not changed.
Advocate Kulkarni argued that different communities get space for their cultural and community activities at the site. Going further, he also pointed out that, according to the petitioner’s counsel Rathod, two floors of the building had already been constructed.
In response, the bench asked him to file an affidavit in reply to the petition. Subsequently, the bench also asked Rathod to just concentrate on the Haj house matter.
The bench said, “Where is the change in land use? If you build a temple, will it be used by everyone? Please make out a case first and show judgement that a Haj house cannot be constructed.”
The bench added, “You said that there is a change in land use. Point out from your pleadings any single paragraph.” It stated that it was a “settled position of law” that the indulgence of the State in barred from religious activity.