Places of Worship Act: SC seeks intervention plea

The Supreme Court on Friday asked six petitioners challenging the validity of certain provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 to file an intervention in a pending matter. A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and J B Pardiwala said the petitioners will be able to supplement the grounds of challenge in the pending petitions.

“We grant liberty to intervene in the two pending petitions,” the bench said.

The apex court was hearing petitions filed by retired Army officer Anil Kabotra, advocates Chandra Shekhar and Rudra Vikram Singh, Devkinandan Thakur Ji, Swami Jeetendranand Saraswati, and former Bharatiya Janata Party MP Chintamani Malviya.

Kabotra has challenged the constitutional validity of sections 2, 3, and 4 of the 1991 Act contending that they violate the principles of secularism.

By making the impugned Act, Centre has arbitrarily created an irrational retrospective cut-off date, declared that character of places of worship shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947, and no suit or proceeding shall lie in court in respect of disputes against encroachment done by barbaric invaders and lawbreakers and such proceeding shall stand abated, said the plea filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey.

The 1991 provision is an Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Several other pleas, including the one filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, challenging the validity of certain provisions of the 1991 Act is already pending in the apex court.

The top court had earlier sought the Centre’s response to Upadhya’s plea challenging the validity of certain provisions of the 1991 law, which prohibit the filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947.

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