SC Asks Centre to File Affidavit on Pleas Against Places of Worship Act

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The Act prohibits filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947.

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Monday granted time to the Central government till December 12 to file a comprehensive affidavit on petitions challenging the validity of certain provisions of Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising justice J.B. Pardiwala noted the submissions made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that the response could not be filed.

The Act prohibits filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947.

Mehta submitted before the bench that he needs to consult with the government for filing a detailed counter and sought time.

Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy submitted that he has not sought setting aside of the Act in his petition and added that like Ayodhya dispute, the matters pertaining to alleged disputed sites at Kashi and Mathura be kept out of the purview of the Act.

Swamy said: “I am not asking for the quashing of the Act. But two temples be added and the Act can stand as it is.”

The bench said it will consider the plea made by Swamy on the next date of hearing.

After hearing arguments, the top court adjourned the matter and asked the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit one on or before December 12, and scheduled the matter for further hearing in the first week of January 2023.

On October 21, the bench directed the Centre to file an affidavit on or before October 31. It listed the matter for further hearing on November 14.

On March 12, 2021, a bench headed by then Chief Justice S.A. Bobde had sought the Centre’s response on the plea filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay challenging the validity of certain provisions of the law.

Upadhyay’s plea said: “The 1991 Act was enacted in the garb of ‘Public order’, which is a State subject (Schedule-7, List-II, Entry-1) and ‘places of pilgrimages within India’ is also State subject (Schedule-7, List-II, Entry-7). So, the Centre can’t enact the Law. Moreover, Article 13(2) prohibits the State to make law to take away fundamental rights but the 1991 Act takes away the rights of Hindus Jains Buddhist Sikhs to restore their ‘places of worship and pilgrimages’, destroyed by barbaric invaders.”

It further added: “The Act excludes the birthplace of Lord Rama but includes the birthplace of Lord Krishna, though both are incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the creator and equally worshiped throughout the word, hence it is arbitrary.” — IANS

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