Supreme Court notice to Centre on plea challenging 1991 Places of Worship Act
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a petition challenging the validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.
This law introduced on July 11, 1991, placed a status quo retrospectively on the character of places of worship as existing on the date of Independence, i.e. August 15, 1947.
A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde and Justice AS Bopanna issued notice on the petition challenging this Act. The petition was filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
The petition said, “The Centre has barred remedies against illegal encroachment on places of worship and pilgrimages and now Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs cannot file a suit or approach a high court under Article 226. Therefore, they won’t be able to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage including temple endowments in spirit of Articles 25-26 and illegal barbarian act of invaders will continue in perpetuity.”
The petition, argued by senior advocate Vikas Singh, added that the 1991 law violated the principle of secularism which is an integral part of Preamble and a basic feature of Constitution.
The 1991 law exempted the suit pending with respect to Ayodhya, the birthplace of Ram.
The petition referred to the ongoing dispute before a trial court for reclaiming the birthplace of Lord Krishna at Mathura which is directly hit by the bar under the 1991 Act.
The petition said, “Hindus are fighting for restoration of birthplace of Lord Krishna from hundreds of years and peaceful public agitation continues, but while enacting the Act, the Centre has excluded the birthplace of Lord Ram at Ayodhya but not the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura, though both are the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the creator. The apex court has finally decided Ayodhya dispute on November 9, 2019 and found substance in the claim of Hindus and now a new temple is going to be constructed after more than 500 years of demolition.”
As per Upadhyay, “Centre has without resolution of the disputes through process of the Law, abated the suit/proceedings, which is ‘per se’ unconstitutional and beyond its law making power.”
Interestingly, there is another petition pending in Supreme Court challenging the validity of the 1991 Act. This petition was filed by Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Mahasangh. In this petition, the Jamait Ulama-i-Hind had also moved an application asking the court not to disturb the status quo laid down by the 1991 Act.