A Supreme Court bench today (11 July) granted the Centre time until 31 October 2023 to reply to the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
The act aims at prohibiting filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on 15 August 1947. The law had made only one exception on the dispute pertaining to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
Former Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy contended that the Centre is taking adjournment after adjournment, but the court should list the matter for final hearing.
The Supreme Court bench, comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra, has clarified that it has not stayed the operation of the law and asked lawyer Vrinda Grover to share a copy of her petition to the counsel assisting the solicitor general.
The Supreme Court had on 9 January asked the central government to file its reply to the PILs against some provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, and had granted it time till the end of February to submit its response.
The top court is hearing six petitions, including the PILs filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay and Swamy, against the provisions of the law.
Upadhyay prayed 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 judicial remedy to reclaim a place of worship of any person or a religious group.
Swamy has contended for reading down certain provisions to enable Hindus stake claim over the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah Mosque in Mathura, while Upadhyay claimed the entire statute was unconstitutional and no question of reading down arises.
On the other hand, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had cited the five-judge Constitution-bench judgement in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title case and said the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, had been referred to there and it cannot be set aside now.
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