NEW DELHI – The All India Muslim Personal Law Board on Thursday moved before the Supreme Court opposing challenges to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
“The present petition seems to be mischievous in nature as it has been the stated objective of the BJP as per VInay Katiyar (BJP leader) who has been quoted to have said – temple building at Kashi and Mathura is very much on our agenda… This has been the stated objective of Sangh Pariwar since 1990 and even Upadhyay’s petition admits this stated position,” the plea by the Muslim body stated.
Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani said in a press statement, “the Board has sought impleadment in two Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991”.
In the applications, it has been submitted that the assailedpPetitions relate to unsettling a law about which the Supreme Court has already stated that the said law is “the commitment of India to the equality of all religions” and further stated that the Act “is an affirmation of the solemn duty which was cast upon the State to preserve and protect the equality of all faiths as an essential constitutional value, a norm which has the status of being a basic feature of the Constitution”.
The applications point out that considering the nature of legislation under the 1991 Act and the affirmation of the Act by the Supreme Court as being a reflection of the basic features of the Constitution, granting indulgence to the petitions such as the present ones, will only create problems on the ground rather than resolving the claims of the alleged violation of fundamental rights of the litigants who have their political agenda on priority. Such disputes disturb the social fabric of Society by polarizing the people on the ground of religion particularly when our country has witnessed blood baths after the controversy erupted in respect of Babri Masjid.
The application emphasizes that the object and the purpose of the 1991 Act is to put an end to alleged claims relating to the places of worship. It has been further stressed that any dispute relating to a place of worship between different communities is highly sensitive and endangers the breach of public order and disturbs the peace and tranquillity of society.
The validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 is pending a challenge in the top court based on a petition filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The SC issued a notice on the petition on March 12 last year seeking response from the Centre after Upadhyay alleged that the law violated Article 25 (right to practice and propagate religion) and Article 26 (right to manage religious affairs) of the Constitution, besides being discriminatory to religious communities by barring them from approaching courts to restore their places of worship. It even questioned the Centre’s power to enact such legislation.
“To rake up issues relating to conversion of places of worship is fraught with dire consequences of the breach of public order and disturbance of public tranquility and peace,” the AIMPLB application, filed through advocate MR Shamshad, read.
Referring to the communal riots that took place in Mumbai after the Babri Masjid demolition three decades ago, the application said, “Our country has witnessed bloodbaths after the controversy erupted in respect of Babri Masjid… Such disputes disturb the social fabric of the society by polarizing the people on the ground of religion.”
The application quoted the Ayodhya title suit judgment decided by the apex court in November 2020, where the five-judge bench ruled, “Places of Worship Act imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism under the Indian Constitution.