Saturday, October 1, 2022

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind petitions SC against pleas challenging Places of Worship Act

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Ulama-i-Jamiat Ulama-i-Jamiat Ulama-i Hind has petitioned the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition challenging the constitutionality of certain sections of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition contesting the Act’s constitutional legality, and the organisation wanted to be impleaded in it. It said that allowing the petition against the Act to be heard will result in a deluge of lawsuits against innumerable mosques across India.

The organisation in its application has said, “There is a list of numerous mosques which is doing the rounds on social media, alleging that the mosques were built allegedly by destroying Hindu temples. Needless to say, that if the present petition is entertained, it will open floodgates of litigation against countless mosques in the country and the religious divide from which the country is recovering in the aftermath of the Ayodhya dispute will only be widened.”

It said the Act was intrinsically related to the obligations of a secular State and reflected the commitment of India to the equality of all religions.

The intervention application further said, “This court has categorically held that the law cannot be used as a device to reach back in time and provide a legal remedy to every person who disagrees with the course which history has taken and that the courts of today cannot take cognizance of historical rights and wrongs unless it is shown that their legal consequences are enforceable in the present.”

The top court had in March 2021 asked the Centre to respond to Upadhyay’s petition challenging the validity of certain provisions of the 1991 Act, which prohibited filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947.

Recently, several petitions were filed challenging the constitutional validity of certain sections of the Act, saying the Act violates the principles of secularism.

They have challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 2, 3, 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, which it said offends Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, 29 and violates the principles of secularism and rule of law, which is integral part of Preamble and basic structure of the Constitution.

The pleas before the top court said the Sections 2, 3, 4 of the Act have taken away the right to approach the Court and thus right to judicial remedy has been closed.

Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion of places of worship. It states, “No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.”

Section 4 prohibits the filing of any action or the initiation of any other legal procedure for the conversion of any place of worship’s religious character as it existed on August 15, 1947.

The Places of Worship Act of 1991 is invalid and unconstitutional for a variety of grounds, according to the petitions, including that it violates Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs’ freedom to worship, profess, and practise religion (Article 25). The Act infringes on Hindus’, Jains’, Buddhists’, and Sikhs’ rights to manage, maintain, and administer places of worship and pilgrimage (Article 26), according to the petitioners.

Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs are barred from owning or obtaining religious properties pertaining to deities under the Act (misappropriated by other communities).

It also takes away right of judicial remedy of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs to take back their places of worship and pilgrimage and the property which belong to deity, stated the pleas.

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