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PIL in Supreme Court challenges Places of Worship Act

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The Supreme Court was on Friday moved by a Public Interest Litigation that challenged the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 by stating that the Act was taking away the rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs to restore their ‘places of worship and pilgrimages,’ which were destroyed by the barbaric invaders.

Filed by former Member of Parliament Chintamani Malviya through Advocate Rakesh Mishra, the PIL noted that though the Act excluded the birthplace of Lord Rama, but included the birthplace of Lord Krishna, though both were the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the creator and were equally worshiped across the world.

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, it alleged.

The PIL further raised a series of questions pertaining to law. It sought to know whether the Centre had the power to close the doors of Courts, whether the Government of India had the power to bar judicial remedy against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimage.

It further sought to know whether the Central government has 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 law breakers, if the Hindu law was the ‘Law in force’ within the meaning of Article 372(1) after commencement of the Constitution.

The PIL further asked whether Section 2, 3, and 4 of the Act was void under Article 13(2) and ultra vires to the Article 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, and 29, whether any rule regulating the custom usage having the force of law, running counter to Articles 25-26 was void by virtue of Article 13(1).

It also asked whether illegal construction on religious places before August 15, 1947 has become void by virtue of injunction under Article 13(1), whether the exclusion of Lord Ram’s birthplace and inclusion of Lord Krishna’s birthplace offended Article 14, since both were the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

The PIL asked whether the Act violated the principle of secularism as the same has been made to curb the right of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage through Court.

The provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 had earlier been challenged in a similar plea, which had stated that a mosque constructed on a temple land cannot be a mosque.

Another plea, challenging the same Act, was pending before the Supreme Court. Filed by Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, the previous plea had stated, “The Act has taken away the power of the Court and Religious Sects to restore their places of Worship”. The Supreme Court had issued a notice on this petition in March, 2021.

In this plea, recently, Jamait Ulama-I-Hind filed an impleadment application before the Apex Court.

Additionally, one more petition has challenged the 1991 Act, by saying 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.

Case Title: Chintamani Malviya vs. Union of India & Ors.

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