Plea which has challenged Places of Worship Act pending in Supreme Court since last year

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The Places of Worship Act 1991 has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the plea has stated that "the Act has taken away the power of the Court and Religious Sects to restore their places of Worship". Filed through Ashwini Upadhayay, notice was issued on the petition in March of 2021.

The plea has stated that, "Act has created arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date, declared that character of places of worship-pilgrimage shall be maintained as it was on 15.8.1947 and no suit or proceeding shall lie in Court in respect of disputes against encroachment done by fundamentalist barbaric invaders and lawbreakers and such proceeding shall stand abated. If suit/appeal/proceeding filed on the ground that conversion of place of worship and pilgrimage has taken place after 15.8.1947 and before 18.9.1991, that shall be disposed of in terms of S.4(1)."

Following are the grounds preferred by the Petitioner against the said provisions:

(i) Offends right of Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs to pray profess practice and prorogate religion (Article 25)

(ii) Infringes on rights of Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs to manage maintain administer the places of worship and pilgrimage (Article 26)

(iii) Deprives Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs from owning/acquiring religious properties belonging to deity (misappropriated by other communities);

(iv) Takes away right of judicial remedy of Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs to take back their places of worship and pilgrimage and the property which belong to deity;

(v) Deprives Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs to take back their places of worship and pilgrimage connected with cultural heritage (Article 29);

(vi) Restricts Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs to restore the possession of places of worship and pilgrimage but allows Muslims to claim under S.107 Waqf Act;

(vii) Legalize barbarian acts of invaders;

(viii) Violates the doctrine of Hindu law; ‘Temple property is never lost even if enjoyed by strangers for years and even the king cannot take away property as deity is embodiment of God and is juristic person, represents ‘Infinite the timeless’ and cannot be confined by the shackles of time.'

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 located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, seeking to issue directions for maintaining status quo. It has been alleged that the direction of the Court in relation of the Survey of the site is in violation of the Places of Worship Act. It is listed before a bench consisting Justices DY Chandrachud & P.S. Narasimha tomorrow as item 40.

However, on May 13, 2022, the apex court had refused to pass an interim order in order to put on hold, the process of inspection, after the matter was mentioned by Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmedi.

Before this, the Allahabad High Court had also “summarily dismissed” the petition moved by Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Varanasi, the committee that runs Gyanvapi mosque, challenging the appointment of Advocate Ajay Kumar Mishra as the Adv. Commissioner for "inspection & videography" of the "disputed site” where allegedly Hindu deities reside. 

In furtherance to this, after reports emerged that a Shivling admeasuring 12.8 feet in diameter had been found at the disputed sit, Advocate Vijay Shankar Rastogi, the appointed next friend of Lord Vishweshwar, told the Allahabad High Court that the Hindu parties are fighting for the cause of the lord as per the law. He made the statement in the ongoing hearing before the Allahabad High Court in the case(s) related to the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque dispute of Varanasi.

"Here, we are fighting the cause of the Lord as per the law. No structure is being taken down as was the case in the Babri Maszid matter," Rastogi said.

Notably, the proceedings in this suit before the Varanasi local court have already been stayed by the high court. The lower court order whereby the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was directed to conduct a survey of the Mosque complex has also stayed.

Interestingly, in a seperate case, initiated by 5 devotees of the goddess Sringar Gauri and other deities, the local court had appointed an advocate commissioner for "inspection & videography" of the "disputed site” on August 18, 2021 and had directed the authorities to submit a report by May 17. Today, in pursuance of the same, on 3rd day of the said survey, a Shiv Linga was found at the disputed premises. 

Cause Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhya Vs. Union of India | Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Varanasi Vs. Rakhi Singh