Supreme Court issues notice to Central govt in challenge to Places of Worship Act which mandates 1947 status quo on religious structures

The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre on a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of a 1991 law which prohibits the filing of a lawsuit to recover a place of worship or to change its character from what prevailed on the date of independence.

The petition alleges that the 1991 law is arbitrary in nature. It was additionally mentioned in the petition that no suit or proceeding shall lie in a court of law with regard to character of place of worship.A Division Bench of SA Bobde and AS Bopanna issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by advocate and BJP spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

The law that was introduced during the peak of Ram Janmabhoomi movement attempts to protect the status of all religious structures as it stood on the date of independence by restricting the courts from hearing cases that raises dispute over the character of such places of worship.

The law additionally provides that such cases which are already pending in courts would stand subsided.However, the Act engraved an exception for Ram-Janambhoomi site which was the basis for courts including High Court and Supreme Court hearing that matter.Since Ayodhya land was exempted, the Supreme Court had invoked this law in 2019 and awarded the disputed site at Ayodhya to deity Ram.

However, the Supreme Court had reaffirmed that similar cases cannot be entertained. The petition states that the Act allows illegal acts of invaders to continue for perpetuity by barring legal remedies to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs.It was also argued that under the Hindu Law, the deity and its property are never lost and devotees have the right to sue a wrongdoer for the restoration of the deity and its property.

So, illegal encroachment by other faith doesn’t yield any right and equity in favour of usurper.Advocate Upadhya claimed in the petition that the Centre has no power to bar judicial remedy against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimage.

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