New Delhi, Jul 29 : The Delhi High Court has ruled that the religious interests of a community cannot be allowed to supersede the interests of public at large. The remark came in a verdict which upheld the Centre’s decision to revoke its “in-principle” approval granted to the construction of a Jain temple on forest land at Chatra in Jharkhand.

“In the present case, the temple proposed to be built is meant for a religious community and their interests and the same cannot be allowed to supersede the interests of the public at large. “Protection of forests and environment is essentially important in view of increasing emission of greenhouse gases. The need of the hour is protecting the nation’s air and water, preserving many endangered species and preventing habitat destruction and large-scale defforestation,” a bench of Justice Manmohan said.

Referring to various apex court judgements, the court said “individual interest or smaller public interest must yield to larger public interest” and the inconvenience of some shall be bypassed for larger interest or cause of the society. Jain Shwetamber Kalyanaktirth Nayas had moved the court against the decision of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) by which it had on March 24, 2009, revoked the earlier “in-principle” approval for constructuion of a temple and other facilities.

The court cited MoEF guidelines that permitted diversion of forest land for construction of schools, hospitals, community halls, cooperatives, panchayats, tiny rural industrial sheds of government. “This court is of the opinion that the petitioner’s application for diversion of a piece of forest land for the development of a temple could not have been permitted as the same is violative of … Of the guidelines. “The permissible projects are explicitly mentioned in the above provision and construction of a temple is certainly not one of the permitted projects,” it said.

The court said that in fact, the “in-principle approval” granted earlier was “non-est, illegal and contrary to the government guidelines and norms”. “The central government acted well within its statutory discretion in not granting final approval to the petitioners proposal,” it said. The Jain Nayas had sought quashing of the MoEF’s order by which the ‘in-principle’ approval to construct temple and other facilities on two acre forest land at Chatra was withdrawn.

The authorities opposed the plea of Nyas saying “if religious amenities were created adjoining the forest areas there was high chance of encroachment in the forest areas in due course and in that situation the authority would find itself incapable of taking prompt and effective action against the encroachment due to sensitivities involved.”