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5th August 2023 (6 Topics)

Incremental injustice


In upholding the conduct of a survey by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at the Gyanvapi mosque, the Allahabad High Court may have endorsed a surreptitious attempt to alter the character of the place of worship.

About the Incident

  • Not barred by the Act- The High Court and the Varanasi District Court, viewed that the suit ?led by ‘Hindu’ devotees to assert their right to worship some deities within the mosque precincts was not barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
  • Right to worship-The reason given was that the suit was solely for the right to worship and not to seek any declaration that the building was a temple.
  • Brazen contradiction- Later on the worshippers filed applications seeking a scientific survey by archaeologists to ascertain whether the Gyanvapi mosque was built on the demolished structure of a Hindu temple.

What is the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991?

  • Prohibit Conversion- The law was “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 the 15th day of August, 1947.”
  • Exception to conversion- Provision to Section 4 saves suits, appeals and legal proceedings that are pending on the date of commencement of the Act if the conversion of the religious character of a place of worship took place after the cut-off date.
  • Uphold secularism- The State, has by enacting the law, enforced a constitutional commitment to uphold the equality of all religions and secularism which is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Why is the law being challenged now?

  • Bars judicial review- The law has been challenged on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.
  • Arbitrary cut-off date- It imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cut-off date” and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
  • Cases kept out of purview- Cases like the Ayodhya Ram temple dispute, the matters pertaining to alleged disputed sites at Kashi and Mathura are kept out of the purview.
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