Places of Worship Act

Why in News?

  • The provisions of the Places of Worship Act of 1991 have been challenged through several petitions in the Supreme Court and the Centre has asked for time to clarify its stand on the validity of the Act.

Places of Worship Act, 1991:

  • The Places of Worship Act is legislation introduced 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 of August, 1947. The Act was introduced under the leadership of the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao at a time when the Ram Temple movement was at its peak.
  • Section 3 of the Places of Worship Act bars the conversion of places of worship of any religious denomination.  Further, the individuals who violate the provisions of Section 3 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also be liable to a fine. According to Section 5, the Act shall not apply to the place of worship commonly known as Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid situated in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh).
  • The Places of Worship Act has now been challenged in the court on the ground that it restricts the scope of judicial review, which is one of the basic features of the Constitution by imposing an arbitrary and irrational retrospective cutoff date and that it curtails the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
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