Daughter Of Kashi Royal Family Head Moves Supreme Court Seeking Intervention In Petitions Challenging Places Of Worship Act
In the Writ Petition filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenging the constitutionality of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 filed before the Supreme Court, Maharaja Kumari Krishna Priya, the daughter of Kashi Naresh Vibhuti Narayan Singh of Varanasi and two others have moved an intervention application supporting the Writ Petition.
The second applicant in the application is a member of the Tuluva Vellalar community, which rebuilt the Kapaleeshwara Temple in Chennai after its destruction by the Portuguese. The Tuluva Vellalar community, it is submitted, has the exclusive right of trusteeship in the Kapaleeshwara Temple.
While the third applicant is a Vaishnavaite and has sought the reclamation of the Bindu Madhav Mandir.
All the applicants have urged before the Court that they have the locus to challenge the vires of the Act on grounds of violation of Articles 25, 26, 29, and 32 of the Constitution.
Applicant No. 1 has submitted before the Court that as the traditional guardians/Shebaits of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, her Family has the duty and right to seek reclamation of the disputed illegal structure known as the Razia Mosque, which is the original site of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.
In addition to this, it has been submitted, "Applicant No. 1 also seeks reclamation of the disputed illegal structure known as the Dhaurahra Mosque which was built by the Mughal Aurangzeb after the destruction of the Bindu Madhav Mandir in 1682 at the Panchaganga Ghat in Varanasi."
Further, it has been stated, "Applicant No.1 on behalf of the Kashi Royal Family, has the locus to challenge the vires of the Act on grounds of violation of Articles 25, 26, 29 and 32 of the Constitution, inter alia¸ since it deprives directly affected parties from approaching Courts of law to reclaim occupied religious sites through an evidence-based judicial process."
AOR KMNP Law filed the Intervening Application on behalf of the Applicants before the Supreme Court.
- Grounds of Intervention
It has been submitted by the Applicants that, "the impugned Act is a textbook instance of a legislation that was passed in the most undemocratic of manners possible, without any regard for the fundamental rights of affected parties."
Further, it has also been stated that the haste with which the Act was passed by the then dispensation without sufficient notice to members of the Parliament, in particular, the then Opposition, evidences the premeditated intent to not subject the contents of the Act and its implications to a democratic and informed debate.
The Applicants have also stated that seven days' notice was not afforded to the Lok Sabha before the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Bill dated August 22, 1991 was introduced.
Additionally, it has been stated that apart from rights under Articles 25, 29 and 32 of the Constitution of India, the issue of reclamation of religious sites also involves the question of title over the immoveable property on which such the sites are located.
It has been urged that, "the lack of such consultation prior to the introduction of the Bill itself is proof of the arbitrariness and caprice which inform the introduction of the Bill and the provisions of the Act."
The Applicants have further stated that, "a cursory perusal of the Act demonstrates that Section 5 of the Act excludes the then pending dispute relating to Shri Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya from the application of the statute, which highlights the discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious nature of the Act."
It has also been submitted that, "the right of Shaivaites to reclaim the occupied sites in Kashi which is dedicated to Lord Shiva has been short-changed compared to the claimants of Shri Ramjanmabhoomi. Thus, the Act treats the rights of owners of Shri Ramjanmbhoomi as being superior to the rights of other Sanatani denominations, without any basis for such discriminatory treatment either in law or in Sanatana Dharma. Therefore, such discrimination and arbitrariness underscores the violation of Article 14 (equal treatment by and before the law), Article 25 (individual religious freedoms), Article 26 (collective/institutional/denominational rights), Article 29 (cultural rights) and Article 32 (access to remedies for enforcement of fundamental rights) of the Constitution of India."
Furthermore, it has been stated that in view of the recognition by a Constitution Bench of the Apex Court n the Ayodhya Judgement of 2019 of the juristic and eternal character of a Deity once consecrated at a Kshetra, the impugned Act permits and legalises continued violated of the rights of Sanatani Deities.
The Applicants have critically submitted that the impact and import of the impugned Act must be viewed and understood against the backdrop of Bharat's history which has witnessed two successive waves of settler colonisation, Middle Eastern followed by European, that directly resulted in incalculable destruction of its religion, culture, heritage, knowledge production and dissemination structures, and economy, among other things.
The Applicants express shock over the way the Government of an "independent" formerly colonised country deemed it fit to enact a legislation which places an embargo on reclamation of occupied religious sites of indigenous/Bharatiya faith systems.
Also, it has been stated that, "the Act actively stands in the way of the truth being laid bare through constitutional means before a court of law through evidence which is legally admissible."
Further, it has been submitted that, "Bharat chose to enact a legislation which legitimises the airbrushing of history to the detriment of its own indigeneity and deprives it of the right to peacefully and legally take back what belongs lawfully to it."
Thus, the Applicants have prayed the Court to pass an order allowing their application and permit them to intervene in the Writ Petitions challenging the impugned Act.
Earlier, on July 29th 2022, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain new petitions challenging the Places of Worship Act, 1991, and instead permitted the Petitioners to file intervention petitions in the pending cases where notices have been issued.
The Bench had asked, "how many petitions will be filed?", referring to the at least eight petitions that are filed challenging the same statute. The Court had earlier issued notice on the PIL filed by Upadhyay seeking a response from the Centre.