The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld lower court decisions that say there is no legal basis for local governments to reject residency registration applications from Aum Shinrikyo members.
Ruling on the case for the first time, the top court demanded that Tokyo’s Suginami Ward and Nagoya’s Chuo Ward reverse their decisions on applications submitted by six cultists.
The court concluded that municipalities are required to accept residency applications, saying a resident registry book is “the basis for processing administrative duties, such as voter records, concerning residents by keeping accurate records conforming to (actual) residence (data).”
According to the ruling issued by the court’s first petty bench, “It is unacceptable for mayors to reject an application for relocation when there is a fact that a person who filed the application has set up a new domicile.”
The two local governments argued that the rejection of residency registration applications is allowed in exceptional cases, such as when there is a chance that order would be disturbed or the lives of residents threatened. The Supreme Court rejected these arguments, saying they have no legal basis.
“I truly find the ruling regrettable,” said Hiroshi Yamada, head of Suginami Ward. “The court did not understand the fact that residents are feeling threatened by the group.
“With this ruling as an opportunity, I think the government must come up with measures to dispel threats,” he added.
Some local governments have refused to allow members of the cult, now known as Aleph, to register as residents. Aum was responsible for, among other crimes, the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured thousands.
Aum members have lodged lawsuits against other municipalities as well in response to such moves by local governments.
As Aum members have won many cases at the district and high court levels, some local governments have decided to reach negotiated settlements.
Following the top court’s decision, other municipalities are expected to come under pressure to decide how to deal with the issue. These include Osaka, Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward and Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture.
Hiroshi Araki, the cult’s spokesman, said after the ruling that Aum has sent letters calling on these municipalities to reach out-of-court settlements.
“We will continue to do our best to coexist with local communities,” Araki added.
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