The Supreme Court on Friday sought the response of the Centre on a PIL challenging a 1991 law that prohibits any lawsuit seeking to reclaim a place of worship or change its character. The petition filed by Delhi BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay was entertained by a Bench of Chief Justice Sharad Bobde and Justice A S Bopanna, which issued the notice.
The petition wants certain sections of the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, set aside since they take away the right of a judicial remedy. It says the Act has arbitrarily and irrationally fixed the 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."
Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniyan, appearing for Upadhyay, said the law makes only one exception -- on the dispute pertaining to the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. He said: "If Ayodhya case had not been decided by the Supreme Court's Constitution Bench on November 9, 2019, Hindus would have been denied justice even after 500 years of the demolition of the temple."
Upadhyay's plea assumes significance because of an ongoing demand by some Hindu groups to reclaim their religious places at Mathura and Kashi, as today they are prohibited from knocking at any court's door, not even that of the Supreme Court. Where can the aggrieved Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs go for justice when the Centre has shut the doors of courts on them, the senior lawyer argued, noting that the law cannot be enforced with retrospective effect, barring the judicial remedy of dispute pending, arisen or arising.
The PIL contends that the Act has barred the remedies against the illegal encroachment of places of worship and pilgrimage of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs since they cannot file a suit or approach a High Court.