The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 was enacted during the Congress government of the country’s Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. According to this law, a place of worship of any religion existing before 15th August 1947 cannot be converted into a place of worship of any other religion. If anyone tries to do this, then he can also be jailed. Meaning, whatever was there on 15th August 1947, it will be considered as there.
The third section is the most important in this entire law. According to this, there is a ban on making any structural changes in the present form of the religious place. It clearly states that religious places will be preserved in the same form in which they were present on 15th August 194 i.e. the day of independence of the country. Then anything must have been there before that. It is also written in it that even if it is proved that the present religious place was built by breaking some other religious place in history, even then its present form cannot be changed. The center has been given the responsibility of preserving such religious places in their present form. The Ayodhya dispute was set aside as an exception by section 5 of this law.
It is also written in this law that the holy place of worship of another religion cannot be converted into any other sect of the same religion. Meaning if a religious place is of Hindu religion at present, then it cannot be converted into a temple of any other sect of Hindus (like Aryans). Similarly, religious places (imambara) of any Shia religion cannot be converted into religious places of other sections of Muslims like Sunni or Ahmadiyya sects.
Provisions of the Place of Worship Law – Understand Pointwise
- Section 3 of this Act prohibits conversion of a place of worship or even a section thereof into a place of worship belonging to a different religious denomination or of a different class of the same religious denomination.
- Section 4(2) of this Act provides that all litigation, appeal or other proceedings relating to change in the nature of a place of worship (which was pending as on 15th August, 1947) shall come into force after the commencement of this Act and No fresh action can be taken in such cases.
- However, if the nature of the place of worship has changed after the cut-off date of August 15, 1947 (after the commencement of the Act), legal action can be initiated.
- The Act also lays down a positive obligation on the government to maintain the religious character/nature of every place of worship as it was at the time of independence.
- This legislative obligation on the government to secure and protect the equality of all religions is an essential secular feature and is one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution.
Why was this law made?
It was built at a time when there was a dispute about Ram temple in the country. BJP leader LK Advani took out a Rath Yatra from Somnath in September 1990. Due to the increasing influence of the Ram Mandir movement, many more temple-mosque disputes started arising along with Ayodhya. And before that in 1984, in a Parliament of Religions held in Delhi, there was a demand to claim Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi. The Narasimha Rao government had brought this law only to put an end to these disputes.
The Congress had promised before the 1991 Lok Sabha elections that if its government came to the Center, it would pass a law from Parliament that would preserve all existing religious places in their present form.
Why is the Ayodhya dispute an exception?
In such a situation, now the question is also why this law was not implemented in the Ayodhya dispute? Two things are important for what makes the Gyanvapi case different from this. Firstly, only mosque existed in Ayodhya and Hindu side claimed that Babri Masjid was built by demolishing the existing Ram temple there. Whereas in Gyanvapi case both mosque and temple are present. But the Hindu side claims that the Gyanvapi complex has been built by demolishing part of the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
The second thing is that the Ayodhya case was going on in the court before independence. Therefore, the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act made in 1991 did not apply to him. But there is a dispute over the 1991 Act on the Gyanvapi case. One of the parties is of the view that since the law came in 1991 and the same year the Gyanvapi case was filed in the court. In such a situation, he is also outside the purview of the special law. On the other hand, the other side says that Gyanvapi Masjid also comes under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act. So there can be no change in it.
Giving the verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, Justice DV Sharma of the Allahabad High Court had said that before the implementation of this law, if any matter is already sub-judice in any court, then this law will not apply to it. But while giving its decision on the Ayodhya dispute, the Supreme Court made it clear that even if a case is already going on, this law will apply to it and all the disputes going on in this context will be considered null and void.
Gyanvapi case reached Supreme Court on the basis of place of worship law
The Varanasi Gyanvapi case has reached the Supreme Court. In the Gyanvapi dispute case, the petitioner Anjuman Inazaniya Masajid Committee has said in its application filed in the Supreme Court that the Allahabad High Court has already stayed the suit filed in 1991. There was also a court order on conducting the survey in that petition, which was stayed by the High Court, when the stay was in place, how did the petition come to the lower court again and how did the lower court order the survey again with videography. gave? In this case both the petitions are against the Place of Worship Act 1991. On this, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya case, through its decision, had also put its stamp on this law.
It has also been mentioned in the application that when the place of worship law has been confirmed in the Supreme Court’s decision that there will be no change in the status of any place of worship other than the Ram temple in Ayodhya, then how did the Varanasi court make this order. Have given?
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi is also opposing the survey being conducted in Gyanvapi on the basis of this law. Recently, Owaisi said that the court’s decision is against the 91 Act of Parliament. If the government repeals the 91 Act, then it is a different matter. He also said that the Act of Parliament should be obeyed. Owaisi said, I am not a supporter of Mughals. BJP is baking political bread in this matter.