Plea in Supreme Court challenges provisions of law prohibiting raising of religious disputes

The plea filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeks setting aside of sections 2, 3, 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 on the grounds that they take away the right of judicial remedy to reclaim a place of worship by any person or a religious group

Press Trust of India November 01, 2020 16:51:48 IST
Plea in Supreme Court challenges provisions of law prohibiting raising of religious disputes

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

New Delhi: A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of some provisions of a 1991 law which prohibited the filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on 15 August, 1947.

The plea seeks setting aside of sections 2, 3, 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 on the grounds that they take away the right of judicial remedy to reclaim a place of worship by any person or a religious group.

The law had made only one exception which was the dispute pertaining to the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid at Ayodhya.

The fresh plea, filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, through advocate Ashwani Dubey assumes significance as there has been ongoing demand by some Hindu groups to reclaim religious places at Mathura and Kashi, which are prohibited under the 1991 law.

The provisions not only offend the right to equality and life but also violate the principles of secularism, which is an integral part of the Preamble and the basic structure of the Constitution, it said.

The petition, which is likely to come up for hearing in the coming days, alleged that the 1991-law created "arbitrary and irrational retrospective cut-off date" of 15 August ,1947, for maintaining the character of places of worship-pilgrimage against encroachment done by "fundamentalist-barbaric invaders and lawbreakers".

The PIL claimed that the provision of the law not only offend Articles 14 (equality), 15 (prohibits discrimination of Indians on basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth), 21 (protection of life and personal liberty), 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion), 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs) and 29 (protection of interests of minorities) but also violate the principles of secularism, which is an integral part of the Preamble and the basic structure of the Constitution.

The PIL contended that the Centre has barred the remedies against illegal encroachment on places of worship and pilgrimages of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, who cannot file suit or approach a High Court.

He sought a declaration from the court that the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 were void and unconstitutional for being violative of fundamental rights to equality, tp practice one's religion and maintain religious places, among others, as the law validated 'places of worship', illegally made by barbaric invaders.

It claimed that the restriction to move court was against the principle of rule of law, and secularism, adding that if the Ayodhya case had not been decided by the Supreme Court's Constitution bench on 9 November, 2019, Hindus would have been denied justice even after 500 years of the demolition of the temple.

"The Centre, by making impugned sections, has, without resolution of the disputes through process of the Law, abated the suit/proceedings, which is 'perse' unconstitutional and beyond its law-making power. Moreover, the impugned provisions cannot be forced with retrospective effect and the judicial remedy of dispute pending, arisen or arising cannot be barred. Centre neither can close the doors of Courts of First Instance, Appellate Courts, Constitutional Courts for aggrieved Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs nor take away the power of high courts and Supreme Court, conferred under Article 226 and 32," it said.

Earlier also, another PIL was filed by ''Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh'' seeking directions to declare Section 4 of the Act as ultra vires.

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