Deccan Chronicle

Fresh challenge in SC over Places of Worship Act 1991

Deccan Chronicle.| Pramod Kumar

Published on: June 8, 2022 | Updated on: June 8, 2022

PIL claims three sections 'legalising' temple razing to build mosques

Supreme Court (PTI)

Supreme Court (PTI)

New Delhi: With more mosques being counted in the list that were constructed after razing pre-existing temples, another PIL petition has been filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, contending that illegal acts of demolition of temples and construction of mosques could not be shielded by the law.

Challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 2, 3, and 4 of Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, PIL petitioner Anil Kabotra has contended that they are violative of Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26 and 29 of the Constitution in so far as they legalise the illegal occupation of the ancient historical and puranic places of worship and pilgrimage and their conversion into mosques.

Anil Kabotra, a resident of Panchkula, adjoining Chandigarh, has said that on the touchstone of the principle of secularism read with Article 14 (equality before the law) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth), it is clear that the State cannot show its inclination or hostile attitude towards any religion, be it the majority or minority.

Noting the impartial attribute of a secular State towards all religions, the PIL petitioner has said the 1991 law violates the principle of secularism as it violates the right of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs for restoration of their places of worship destroyed before August 15, 1947 even through mediation and the court.

Referring to eight internal conventions, including those adopted by the United Nations relating to protection of places of worship, cultural and spiritual heritage of people and the promotion of diversity of cultural expressions, the PIL petitioner has said the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 was unconstitutional and beyond the law-making power of the Centre as it put a bar on the resolution of disputes through the process of law, which now stand abated. Mr Kabotra’s petition notes that India is a signatory to these international conventions.

The petition further says that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act cannot be implemented with retrospective effect and the remedy of disputes pending, arisen or arising cannot be barred. "The Centre neither can close the doors for aggrieved persons nor can take away the power of the district court, high court and Supreme Court," says the PIL.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind has already moved the court urging it to not entertain petitions challenging the validity of certain clauses of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, saying it would open the floodgates of litigation against countless mosques across India.

The Jamiat, in its intervention application, said: "There is a list of numerous mosques doing the rounds on the social media, alleging that the mosques were built allegedly by destroying Hindu temples. Needless to say, if the present petition is entertained, it will open the floodgates of litigation against countless mosques in the country and the religious divide, from which the country is recovering in the aftermath of the Ayodhya dispute, will only be widened."

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