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Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India

SC posts pleas challenging Places of Worship Act 1991 before 3-judge bench

ANI | Updated: Sep 09, 2022 15:18 IST


New Delhi [India], September 9 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Friday posted for hearing, before a three-judge bench, the pleas challenging the Constitutional validity of certain sections of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit also asked the Centre to file its response to the pleas within two weeks. It noted that the Central government has not yet filed any response to the pleas in which the notice was issued last year.
It also allowed applicants to intervene in the main pleas challenging the Places of Worship Act and can file written submissions for not more than five pages.
It also issued notice to the Centre on some pleas and intervention applications filed on the matter.
Posting the matter for hearing on October 11, it said that in the meantime all parties are directed to complete pleadings.
Earlier, the apex court had granted liberty to petitioners, challenging the Act, to file an intervention application in already pending pleas on the same issue.
The plea challenged the Places of Worship Act saying that the Act takes away the rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to restore their 'places of worship and pilgrimages' destroyed by the invaders.
The daughter of Kashi Royal Family, Maharaja Kumari Krishna Priya; BJP leader Subramanian Swamy; Chintamani Malviya, former Member of Parliament; Anil Kabotra, a retired army officer; advocate Chandra Shekhar; Rudra Vikram Singh, resident of Varanasi; Swami Jeetendranand Saraswati, a religious leader; Devkinandan Thakur, resident of Mathura and a religious guru among others have filed the pleas in the apex court against the 1991 Act.
The apex court had issued notices to the Centre on the plea of advocate Ashwini Upadhyay and one other plea challenging the Act.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind also filed a plea in the top court challenging the petitions filed by a Hindu petitioner saying that entertaining the pleas against the Act will open floodgates of the litigations against countless mosques across India.
One of the pleas stated, "The Act excludes the birthplace of Lord Rama but includes the birthplace of Lord Krishna, though both are the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the creator and equally worshipped all over the world."
The pleas further stated that the Act blatantly offends the right of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to restore, manage, maintain and administer the places of worship and pilgrimage guaranteed under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution.
The pleas filed have challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, which it said offends Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, 29 and violates the principles of secularism and the rule of law, which is an integral part of the Preamble and the basic structure of the Constitution.
The pleas said that the Act violates the principles of secularism and Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the Act and has taken away the Right To Approach the Court and thus Right To Judicial Remedy has been closed.
Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion of places of worship. It states, "No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof."
Section 4 bars filing any suit or initiating any other legal proceeding for a conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, as existing on August 15, 1947.
The Places of Worship Act 1991 is void and unconstitutional for many reasons, the plea said, adding that it offends the right of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to pray, profess, practice and prorogate religion (Article 25), the petitions said.
The Act infringes on the rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to manage maintain and administer the places of worship and pilgrimage (Article 26), the pleas added.
The Act deprives Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs of owning religious properties belonging to the deity (misappropriated by other communities). It also takes away the right of judicial remedy of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to take back their places of worship and pilgrimage and the property which belonged to deity, stated the pleas.
The Act further deprives Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to take back their places of worship and pilgrimage connected with cultural heritage (Article 29) and it also restricts them to restore the possession of places of worship and pilgrimage but allows Muslims to claim under Section 107, Waqf Act, the pleas added.
"The Act legalizes the barbarian acts of invaders. It violates the doctrine of Hindu law that the 'Temple property is never lost even if enjoyed by strangers for years' and even the king cannot take away property as the deity is the embodiment of God and is juristic person, represents 'Infinite the timeless' and cannot be confined by the shackles of time," one of the petitions stated.
"It is respectfully submitted that the Central Government by making impugned provision (Places of Worship Act 1991) in the year of 1991 has created arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date, declared that character of places of worship and pilgrimage shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947, and no suit or proceeding shall lie in the court in respect of the dispute against encroachment done by barbaric fundamentalist invaders and such proceeding shall stand abated," the PILs stated. (ANI)

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