Petitions Challenging Places Of Worship Act Pending Before SC, Not Listed After Notice
The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which prohibits changing the religious character of a place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, has been challenged in at least two proceedings that are pending before the Supreme Court.
The proceedings before the Varanasi Court regarding the Gyanvapi Mosque have been challenged before the Supreme Court by the Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Management Committee, primarily on the basis of the provisions of the said Places of Worship Act.
It has been argued in the Petition before the Supreme Court that the suit before Varanasi Court is barred by Section 4 of the Places of Worship Act. The Petition is listed on Tuesday before the Bench of Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha.
In October, 2020 Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had filed a Writ Petition challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Places of Worship Act. It is contended in the Petition that judicial remedy has been closed to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, thereby frustrating the principle of ubi jus ibi remedium.
It is contended in the Petition that Pilgrimage being a state subject, the centre cannot abridge the rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs to restore possession of their places of worship. "Muslims can restore their religious property under Section 107 of Waqf Act, as there is neither any limitation not any retrospective cutoff date but on the other hand, similarly situated Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs can't restore", the Petition says.
On March 12, 2021, a Bench of the then Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justice A. S. Bopanna issued notice on the plea. Senior Advocates Vikas Singh and Gopal Shankarnarayan had appeared for the Petitioner while Solicitor General had appeared for the Center.
Thereafter, yet another Petition was filed by Dr. Subramanian Swamy and Advocate Satya Sabharwal challenging the law. A Bench of Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justice A. S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubraminian had issued notice on the Petition on March 26, 2021, after hearing the Petitioners who had appread in person. The Court had also directed that the matter be tagged along with Ashwini Upadhyay's Petition.
However, both the cases have not been listed thereafter.
The validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 is an important question that will have a bearing on the Gyanvapi Mosque case as well as the Krishna Janmabhoomi case in Mathura.