Plea In SC Opposes Challenge Against Places Of Worship Act; Says ‘Even Issuance Of Notice Will Create Fear In The Minds Of Minorities’

An application has been filed in Supreme Court opposing a petition filed by a Hindu priests’ organization which challenged the constitutional validity of Section 4 of the Places Of Worship Act, 1991 (the Act).

This application, moved by the Peace Party of India, has urged the Top Court to not even issue notice in the original Petition, arguing that doing so would create fear in the minds of Muslim Community.

“It is submitted that even issuance of notice in the present matter will create fear in the minds of minority communities with regard to their places of worship, and will destroy the secular fabric of the nation.”

The petition in question, filed by Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh, claims that the aforementioned provision has the effect of preventing the Hindu Community from reclaiming certain places of worship which were originally Hindu in nature but allegedly converted by Muslim invaders. The petitioners had also claimed that Section 4 of the Act discriminates between Hindus and Muslims with respect to restoring possession of places of worship.

In wake of the Ayodhya judgment, the move by the Purohit Mahasangh is seen as a bid to reclaim disputed land in religious places such as Kashi and Mathura.

In this light, the Peace Party has argued that the petitioners seek to indirectly target places of worship which are essentially Muslim in nature. The applicants, therefore, seek to implead themselves in the matter and present a secular view with regard to the validity of Section 4.

“The Applicant Organization wishes to put forth its secular views on the constitutional challenge to an enactment which by its very enactment seeks to cement the secular nature of the country and also ensures that religious fundamentalists do not create havoc amongst the people of this secular country in the name of religion.”

It is further submitted that the Hindu priests’ organization, through its plea, is attempting to embroil the courts in matters which are centuries old and thereby create a tense atmosphere fuelled by religious intolerance.

Buttressing this point, the applicant organization has cited the tense atmosphere that was created during the Ayodhya judgment, creating a divide between Hindus and Muslims.

Additionally, it is submitted that there are a number of structures which have come up over structures of other religions. Referring to gurdwaras, churches and temples, in addition to mosques, that have been built over other churches, mosques and gurdwaras, in addition to temples, the applicant states that the consequences would wreck havoc.

“If the Writ Petition is allowed it will open a Pandora’s box wherein every religion would stake claim to structures which have the nature of different religion at the moment.”

Thus it is submitted that the Court may add the applicants as parties, and in a bid to protect the secular nature of the country and promote harmony amongst all communities, the original Petition may be dismissed.

The Peace Party is the second applicant after Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind seeking to implead itself as a party to oppose this petition.

Notably, in the Ayodhya verdict, the Supreme Court had affirmed the constitutionality of Places of Worship Act observing that it was enacted to preserve secularism.

“The Places of Worship Act is intrinsically related to the obligations of a secular state. It reflects the commitment of India to the equality of all religions. Above all, the Places of Worship Act is an affirmation of the solemn duty which was cast upon the State to preserve and protect the equality of all faiths as an essential constitutional value, a norm which has the status of being a basic feature of the Constitution. There is a purpose underlying the enactment of the Places of Worship Act. The law speaks to our history and to the future of the nation. Cognizant as we are of our history and of the need for the nation to confront it, Independence was a watershed moment to heal the wounds of the past. Historical wrongs cannot be remedied by the people taking the law in their own hands. In preserving the character of places of public worship, Parliament has mandated in no uncertain terms that history and its wrongs shall not be used as instruments to oppress the present and the future”, the SC had observed.

Accordingly, the SC overruled the observations made by Justice D V Sharma in the dissenting judgment of Allahabad High Court regarding this Act. Justice Sharma had observed that the Act does not debar those cases where declaration is sought for a period prior to the Act came into force or for enforcement of right which was recognized before coming into force of the Act.

The SC observed that the observations by Justice Sharma are against the statutory scheme under Section 4(1) and also “constitutional values”

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