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Supreme Court issues notice after petition challenges validity of 1991 Act that prevents reclamation of Kashi-Mathura temples

In his petition, Upadhyay has argued that the Places of Worship Act (Special Provisions Act) prevents the reclamation of places of worship sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, Jain and Sikhs. He also pointed out that the law legitimises the illegal acts of invaders.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of India issued notice to the Centre, after a petitioner challenged the Places of Worship Act, 1991.

As per reports, the notice was issued by a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justice AS Bopanna in response to a petition filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The petitioner was represented in Court by Senior advocates Vikas Singh and Gopal Sankaranarayanan.

In his petition, Upadhyay has argued that the Places of Worship Act (Special Provisions Act) prevents the reclamation of places of worship sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, Jain and Sikhs. He also pointed out that the law legitimises the illegal acts of invaders.

The petition said, “Centre has barred the remedies against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimages and now Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs cannot file Suit or approach High Court under Article 226. Therefore, they won’t be able to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage including temples-endowments in spirit of Articles 25-26 and illegal barbarian act of invaders will continue in perpetuity.”

It must be mentioned that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 mandates that the religious character of all places of worship must remain as it was on August 15, 1947. The law further states that no suit or legal proceeding must remain in Court challenging the character of any such place of worship. The only exception to the law was the Ayodhya Ram Mandir.

The construction for the majestic Ram temple has begun in Ayodhya, following the historic Ram Janmabhoomi verdict in 2019. Several Hindu organisations have been demanding the repeal of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 that prevents the legal reclamation of two Hindu temples of historic importance, namely, Kashi and Mathura.

In his petition, the BJP leader has emphasised that the Act gave way to an arbitrary irrational cut off date by “declaring that character of places of worship-pilgrimage 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 fundamentalist barbaric invaders and lawbreakers and such proceeding shall stand abated.

Suit seeking restoration of worship at the ancient Hindu temple

Last month, a suit was filed before the court of civil Senior Divisional Judge, Varanasi seeking restoration of the permanence of worship rituals at the principal seat of an ancient temple which is now part of the Gyanvapi mosque complex near the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The suit was filed by Rajana Agnihotri and 9 other devotees who are also worshippers of Lord Shiva practising the Vedic Sanatan Hindu Dharma.

The suit was registered as a miscellaneous case that will come up before the concerned court for the hearing, as informed by petitioners’ counsel HS Jain. Counsel for the Committee of Management Anjuman Intazamia Masajid, who was reportedly present in the court from the respondents’ side, sought time for filing a counter-affidavit. 

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