Centre seeks time from SC in Places of Worship Act case

Prelims level : Policies Mains level : GS-II Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
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Why in News?

  • The government has recently in the Supreme Court sought more time to clarify its stand on the validity of the Places of Worship Act, saying “detailed consultations” are needed at a “particular level”.

What’s the issue?

  • In March 2021, the top court had issued a formal notice to Union Ministries of Home, Law and Culture on a petition filed against the various provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991.
  • The 1991 Act mandates that the identity of a religious place of worship as it had existed in August 15, 1947 should not be changed.

What does the places of worship act, 1991 say?

  • The Act states that a place of worship’s religious nature must remain the same as it was on August 15, 1947.
  • It says no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.
  • It declares that all litigation, appeals, or other proceedings ongoing before any court or authority on August 15, 1947, involving converting the status of a place of worship, will cease as soon as the law takes effect. There will be no more legal action taken.

The following are exempt from these provisions:

  • Ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains that are covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • A suit that has been finally settled or disposed of; and any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.
  • The Act also does not apply to the place of worship commonly referred to as Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This law will have an overriding effect over any other law in force.

Criticisms surrounding the law:

  • The law has been challenged on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution, imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cut-off date”, and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
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