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Andhra Pradesh High Court Orders Gram Panchayat To Take Decision Regarding the Construction of Church-Cum-Community Hall

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On 9 April 2021, the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court disposed of the Public Interest Litigation concerning the construction of a Baptist Church-cum-community hall and directed the Gram Panchayat to take adequate measures regarding the construction at the disputed site keeping the welfare of the people as the paramount consideration. 

Facts of the Case

The petition was filed stating that government-sanctioned house sites at lagadapadu village to SC Hindu Madiga community has an empty un-numbered plot as there was a well for public use in 1970. The respondents started constructing a church at the aforementioned plot without any permission as against the mutual decision made by the community of building a community hall. When the issue was brought to the Tahsildar (Pedakurapadu Mandal), he issued a notice stating that the land is government land and no construction should take place. The construction was stopped for some time. However, when the government changed, Respondents forced the Tahsildar to remove the notice and continued the illegal construction of another Church on the government’s land.  

In a counter-affidavit, the District Collector (one of the respondents), stated that there was no well on the site. Further, there are two rival groups in S.C. (Madiga) community, and the majority of community people are planning to construct a communal hall, and the construction up to the basement level was completed earlier. One group wanted to continue the construction while the other group requested to restore the existing well for their community needs. Likewise, other respondents submitted the counter-affidavit stating similar things. 

Court’s Observation

The Andhra Pradesh High Court observed in the report submitted by the Senior Civil Judge-cum-Chairman that there is a half-constructed building and its in-detail description. It was highlighted that originally the idea of construction of Church-cum-community hall was mooted by one group of villagers. But, subsequently, the representation to the authorities had shown proposal for construction of a community hall and the subsequent papers do not contain the word “Church”. The panchayat approved the construction of a community hall only.  

Further, the court observed that since the building is constructed with the funds allocated by certain people of the community, hence, it might lead to control of few people over the building. 

Court’s Judgment

After listening to both sides and considering the reports of the Senior Civil Judge-cum-Chairman, the court ordered that it will be appropriate to direct the Gram Panchayat to take adequate measures regarding the construction at the disputed site keeping the welfare of the people as the paramount consideration. Further, the court disposed of the Writ Petition and stated that any pending miscellaneous applications shall also stand closed. 

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