In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the Central government in a challenge to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 (Act) which mandates that character of all religious places of worship should be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947 and no suit or proceeding shall lie in a court of law with respect to character of place of worship.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde and AS Bopanna issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by advocate and BJP spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
The law which was introduced during the height of Ram Janmabhoomi movement seeks to protect the status of all religious structures as it stood on the date of independence by barring courts from entertaining cases which raises dispute over the character of such places of worship.
The law further provides that such cases already pending in courts would stand abated.
The Act, however, carved an exception for Ram-Janambhoomi site which was the basis for courts including High Court and Supreme Court hearing that matter.
Since Ayodhya land was exempted, the Supreme Court had invoked this law in 2019 while awarding the disputed site at Ayodhya to child deity Ram Lalla. The Supreme Court had, however, reaffirmed that similar such cases cannot be entertained with respect to other sites in view of the Act.
The plea by Upadhyay states that the Act allows illegal acts of invaders to continue for perpetuity by barring legal remedies to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs.
“Centre has barred the remedies against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimages and now Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs cannot file Suit or approach High Court under Article 226. Therefore, they won’t be able to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage including temples-endowments in spirit of Articles 25-26 and illegal barbarian act of invaders will continue in perpetuity,” the petition states.
Upadhyay has contended that the Act created an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cut-off date, (by) declaring that character of places of worship-pilgrimage shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947 and no suit or proceeding shall lie in Court in respect of disputes against encroachment done by fundamentalist barbaric invaders and law breakers and such proceeding shall stand abated.”
The petition said, “Hindus are fighting for restoration of birthplace of Lord Krishna from hundreds of years and peaceful public agitation continues, but while enacting the Act, the Centre has excluded the birthplace of Lord Ram at Ayodhya but not the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura, though both are the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the creator.,:
“Centre has without resolution of the disputes through process of the Law, abated the suit/proceedings, which is ‘per se’ unconstitutional and beyond its law making power,” reads the plea.