Monday 1 March 2021
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PIL before Ayodhya verdict to scrap Act on places of worship

Hindus would hardly complain that their faith is held ransom to legality as the PIL challenges their right to question some historical wrongs

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Politics India PIL before Ayodhya verdict to scrap Act on places of worship

After the completion of the hearing of the Ayodhya dispute, another case will perhaps begin in the Supreme Court dealing with religious places or places of worship. It is possible that even before the verdict of the age-old Ayodhya dispute, this public interest litigation (PIL) hits the court. Already, other than the case of land title dispute, there is a case to determine whether leaders of the RSS, BJP, VHP and other Hindu organisations like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Ritambhara, etc were responsible for the demolition of the Babri structure on 6 December 1992.

Interestingly, Hindus might not complain if the PIL is admitted. For, the law it challenges keeps other places of worship that they claim out of bounds for them.

According to sources, a lawyer is going to challenge the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 in the Supreme Court through this PIL. This Act was passed that year when Parliament had decided that the status, rights and ownership of all other religions and places of worship all over the country, except the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, would remain the same as before 15 August 1947.

The law the PIL would challenge

Lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesman Ashwini Upadhyay is moving the court against the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. He says, “Apart from Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, Sri Krishna’s birthplace in Mathura, Kashi Vishwanath, Vijay Mandir in Vidisha, Rudra Mahalaya in Batna, Gujarat, the Bhadrakali temple, the ancient city of Raja Bhoja including the places of faith like Bhojshala in Dhar, were demolished or usurped during the Mughal period arbitrarily and illegally. Mosques, dargahs or idgahs were built in their place.”

Upadhyay continues, “Religious disputes over social rights were going on in some courts in 1991 when, without talking to both the sides, the government of the day passed this Act.”

Upadhyay believes that, by doing so, the PV Narasimha Rao government at the Centre attempted a forceful change in history, insulted other communities of India like Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis etc. At the same time, it is also against the basic spirit of Islam, the lawyer says, where it is forbidden to forcibly build a mosque or grab the land of others or raze the place of worship of others.

Taking a dig at this act, Shi’ah Central Waqf Board Chairman Syed Wasim Rizvi has demanded that his community asked the Union Government to repeal the Act several times in the past. Rizvi says that places with historical evidence of forcible capturing, such as temples, where idgahs were built should be handed back to the original occupants. However, this law is the main obstacle in this path. Now if the government repeals the Act, it will also be legally easy to return such religious places across the country to their original entitlements and worshippers.

Meanwhile, in the Ayodhya case…

Further to the “moulding of relief” affidavits by the Hindu Mahasabha, other Hindu parties to the dispute and Haji Mehboob in the Ayodhya case, the Shi’ah Waqf Board has said that in its ‘moulding of relief’ affidavit that their community has told the Supreme Court that they were giving up the claim on the land given to the Muslims by the Allahabad High Court. Rizvi said that a temple should be built there.

The Shi’ah Waqf Board affidavit says specifically that a Lord Rama temple should be built on the land.

While this position the Shi’ahs have taken in the case has been known since 2017, it has reiterated that the land is not owned by the Sunni Waqf Board, but by the Shi’ah Waqf Board. In this situation, the Shi’ahs have said that the part which the High Court had given to the Sunni Waqf Board should be given to the Hindu side.

Hindu Mahasabha objects

Ram Lalla Virajman and Hindu Mahasabha have objected to the Muslim side giving a written reply in a sealed cover for the moulding of relief. They have written a letter to the Secretariat Journal of the Supreme Court in which they have said that the five-member bench of the Supreme Court did not say anywhere in their order that the reply on the moulding of relief should be filed in a sealed cover. In such a situation, the Sunni Waqf Board’s reply should not be accepted nor should it be placed before the five-member bench.

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