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Muslim body moves SC seeking intervention in plea against Places of Worship Act

New Delhi: Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking intervention in a pending petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

The plea said that petitioner advocate Ashwini Upadhyay has raised grounds which have already been considered and decided by the constitution bench of the top court.

Even if all the allegations of the petitioner are assumed to be true, it is nothing but seeking a correction of historical wrongs, the Muslim body said.

“This court has categorically held that the law cannot be used as a device to reach back in time and provide a legal remedy to every person who disagrees with the course which history has taken and that the courts of today cannot take cognizance of historical rights and wrongs unless it is shown that their legal consequences are enforceable in the present.

“In fact, this court categorically held that this court cannot entertain claims that from actions of the Mughal rulers against Hindu Places of Worship in a court of law today,” the plea said.

The organisation said there is no conflict between the Waqf Act and the Places of the Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 as alleged by Upadhyay as Section 7 of the 1991 Act gives it an overriding effect over other enactments.

“Further, in any event, the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act,1991 being a special vehicle act to preserve the secular fabric of the country will in any event take precedence over a general enactment.

“There is a list of numerous mosques which is doing the rounds on social media, alleging that the mosques were built allegedly by destroying Hindu places of worship.

“Needless to say that if the present petition is entertained, it will open floodgates of litigation against countless mosques in the country and the religious divide from which the country is recovering in the aftermath of the Ayodhya dispute will only be widened,” the plea said.

The top court in March last year had sought the Centre’s response to a plea filed before it challenging the validity of certain provisions of the 1991 law, which prohibit the filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947.

The petition alleges that the 1991 law creates an “arbitrary and irrational retrospective cut-off date” of August 15, 1947 for maintaining the character of the places of worship or pilgrimage against encroachment done by “fundamentalist-barbaric invaders and law-breakers”.

The apex court had issued notice to the Centre on the plea filed by Upadhyay, seeking that sections 2, 3, 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 be set aside on grounds including that these provisions take away the right of a judicial remedy to reclaim a place of worship of any person or a religious group.

The law has made only one exception — on the dispute pertaining to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri masjid at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

The plea assumes significance as there has been an ongoing demand by some Hindu groups to reclaim religious places at Mathura and Kashi, which are prohibited under the 1991 law.

The PIL filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey contended that the Centre has barred the remedies against illegal encroachment on places of worship and pilgrimage of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, who cannot file a suit or approach a high court.

The petitioner has sought a declaration that the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 are void and unconstitutional for being violative of the fundamental rights to equality, practice one’s religion and maintain religious places, among others, as the law validate the “places of worship” illegally made by barbaric invaders.

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