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Places of Worship Act

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Places of Worship Act:


Context:

A co-mutawalli of 350-year-old ”TeelyWali masjid” of Lucknow, Wasif Hasan, has approached the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the pending PIL challenging provisions of the Places of Worship Act.

  • The applicant has opposed the plea claiming that the petition is a mischievous one which aims at isolating the Muslim Community as a separate category from other religious communities in India.

What’s the issue?

A petition filed in the court challenged a special law — Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991 — which freezes the status of places of worship as it was on August 15, 1947.

The petitioner had termed the law as “arbitrary, irrational and retrospective”.

What are the objectives of the Act?

  • To freeze the status of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.
  • To provide for the maintenance of the religious character of such a place of worship as on that day.
  • To pre-empt new claims by any group about the past status of any place of worship and attempts to reclaim the structures or the land on which they stood.

Key features:

  • The Act declares that the religious character of a place of worship shall continue to be the same as it was on August 15, 1947.
  • It says no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.
  • It declares that all suits, appeals or any other proceedings regarding converting the character of a place of worship, which are pending before any court or authority on August 15, 1947, will abate as soon as the law comes into force. No further legal proceedings can be instituted.

Exceptions:

These provisions will not apply to:

  1. Ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains that are covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  2. A suit that has been finally settled or disposed of; and any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.
  3. The Act also does not apply to the place of worship commonly referred to as Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This law will have overriding effect over any other law in force.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Key features of the law.

Mains Link:

Write a note on issues surrounding this law.

Sources: the Hindu.