Plea in SC terms PIL against 1991 law on places of worship as ‘mischievous’

A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court challenging a PIL against a law fixing August 15, 1947 as the cut-off date to maintain the character of a place of worship.

The application moved by a Lucknow-based co-manager of a mosque said the PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay is “mischievous”, which aims at isolating the Muslim community as a separate category from the other major religious communities in India.

On March 12, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the Centre on a PIL challenging the validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which barred litigation on any place of worship for change of its character as it existed in 1947.

The matter assumes significance in the backdrop of demands to resume litigation on Kashi-Mathura related to temples of Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna, respectively. The Act did not include the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi case, which was decided by the top court in 2019.

The application argued that the country has been progressing unitedly but certain individuals, including the petitioner, was making attempts to divide people on the basis of religion.

“The language of the petition is shocking. The petitioner has sought to set up an allegedly factual case of fundamentalist barbarians coming to India and destroying places of worship without providing any facts, sources or setting up a case that any such places of worship have indeed been destroyed,” said the application.

It further argued that disputes, which have not existed for centuries, are sought to be ignited by the petition.

“The Places of Worship Act imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism under the Indian Constitution,” said the application by Wasim Hasan, a co-Mutawalli of the Teelaywali Masjid.

Hasan contended that the top court in a verdict has observed that the Places of Worship Act, which was enacted in 1991 by the Parliament, protects and secures the fundamental values of the Constitution.

The plea added that the applicant has been defending a suit pending before a Lucknow court through which the Masjid has been assailed on the grounds that the same was once allegedly the site of a temple.

“The instant petition is also mischievous as it seeks to reopen the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute by attacking the exception caved out for it under the 1991 Act,” added the application.