Another plea before Supreme Court challenges Places of Worship Act

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Another plea has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the provisions of the Places of Worship Act, 1991.

The plea states that religious fundamentalists’ invasion on the land of India was always followed by the destruction of places of worship of eminence and a place of worship of different religious denomination was constructed or established over the ruins of the earlier structure and thus, each and every place of worship of eminence of Sanatan (Hindu) religion has one or more place of worship of a particular religious denomination in its vicinity.

The Public Interest Litigation filed by Advocate Chandra Shekhar states that the provisions of the Sections 3 & 4 of the Act are ultra vires of the Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, and 29 as well as the principles of Secularism, which have been time and again considered and held as an integral part of the Constitution of India forming its basic structure and the Preamble.

The plea states, "After nearly 43 years, when the dispute regarding Shri Ram Janmabhumi at Shri Ayodhyaji was in focus, the government of the day chose to enact this legislation despite being fully aware of the fact that barbaric invaders of a particular religious denomination had destructed thousands of religious places of worship and cultural and educational institutions of eminence belonging to Sanatan (Hindu) religion, which has been time and again proved by acclaimed historians."

"The military missions of those religious fundamentalist invaders destructed and set ablaze the eminent educational institution like Nalanda University. This fact is also undisputed and proved on scientific bases that thousands of places of worship of eminence of Sanatan (Hindu) religion, which is the oldest surviving religion and civilization and all other religions originated later on," the plea adds.

The plea challenges the following provisions:

  • "Section 3 which prohibits conversion of any place of worship of a religious demonization into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or a different religious denomination or any section thereof.
  • Section 4(1) which declares that the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same.
  • Section 4(2) which further prohibits any judicial adjudication of disputes either pending at the time of commencement of the Act or to be raised thereafter, meaning thereby that any wrong committed between 15.08.1947 to 11.07.1991 will not be adjudicated upon and injustice done to one particular religious denomination shall stand validated and legalized.
  • Section 4(3) which carves out exceptions with regard to the places of worship which shall not be affected by the provisions of this impugned Act."

The PIL raises the following issues:

  1. Whether the Union Government has powers to close the doors of Courts to a section of citizens of particular religious denominations being fully aware that such a bar om Court’s jurisdiction will perpetuate the historical injustices done by the religious fundamentalist invaders?
  2. Whether the Union Government has power to bar judicial remedy against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimage?
  3. Whether Union Government has not transgressed its power by making provisions to bar judicial remedy available to aggrieved Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs against the wrong committed by invaders and lawbreakers?
  4. Whether the customary Hindu law as recognized under different legislations is not the ‘Law in force’ within the meaning of Article 372(1) after commencement of the Constitution of India?
  5. Whether the provisions of Section 2, 3, 4 of the impugned Act not is void under Article 13(2) and ultra-virus the Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26 and 29 of the Constitution of India?
  6. Whether any rule, regulation, custom and usage having the force of law, running counter to the provisions under Articles 25 to 26 of the Constitution of India is not void by virtue of Article 13(1) thereof?
  7. Whether the impugned Act does not violate the principle of secularism as same has been made to curb the right of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage through Court?
  8. Whether exclusion of Lord Shri Ram’s birthplace at Ayodhyaji and inclusion of all other religious places of equal importance and eminence like Lord Shri Krishna birthplace does not offend the law of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India?

One other plea challenging the Places of Worship Act 1991 is pending before the Supreme Court filed by Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay which states that "the Act has taken away the power of the Court and Religious Sects to restore their places of Worship". Notice was issued on the petition in March of 2021.

It may be noted that in the Gyanvapi disputed site matter, Mosque Committee has challenged the direction of the Varanasi Court directing to conduct videography and collect evidence regarding the alleged existence of Hindu deities inside the Gyanvapi Mosque complex. It has been alleged by the Committee that the direction of the Court in relation of the Survey of the site is in violation of the Places of Worship Act. 

Case Title: Chandra Shekhar Vs. Union of India & Ors.