SC gives Centre two weeks to file affidavit on plea against Places of Worship Act
New Delhi: The Centre on Friday undertook before the Supreme Court that it will respond within two weeks on petitions challenging the validity of certain provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
In March last year, the apex court had sought Centre’s response on petitions challenging the provisions of the Act, but it is yet to file its response.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, specifically asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, whether the Central government will file its response in the matter or not?
The bench, also comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and P.S. Narasimha, noted that a notice was issued on the petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay long ago, and queried Mehta, has the Centre filed any response in the matter? Mehta said the government will file its response.
Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, representing a petitioner, submitted before the bench that the right of judicial review of the Act, cannot be taken away and relied on judgment in Minerva Mills.
BJP leader Subramanium Swamy, a petitioner in the matter, emphasized on reading down the Act so that along with Ram Janmabhoomi, the Kashi Vishwanath and Mathura matters can also be taken up.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing a petitioner, said the question of reading down will arise only if it is found that the Act is not ultra vires of the Constitution.
After hearing submissions, the top court permitted all the applications, including the plea filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, to intervene in the hearing of the pleas challenging the validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which prohibits the filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or changing its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947.
It noted that a bench of two judges of this court had issued notice in the matter in March 2021, thereafter this petition has been coming up on a few occasions. However, the Union of India has not put in any response, it added.
The bench said the matter be heard by a three-judge bench on October 11 and asked the parties to complete the pleadings before the hearing. It said the Solicitor General has been granted two weeks to file an affidavit.
On March 12, 2021, a bench headed by then Chief Justice S.A. Bobde had sought the Centre’s response on the plea filed by Upadhyay challenging the validity of certain provisions of the law.
Upadhyay’s plea said: “The 1991 Act was enacted in the garb of ‘Public order’, which is a State subject [Schedule-7, List-II, Entry-1] and ‘places of pilgrimages within India’ is also State subject [Schedule-7, List-II, Entry-7]. So, the Centre can’t enact the Law. Moreover, Article 13(2) prohibits the State to make law to take away fundamental rights but the 1991 Act takes away the rights of Hindus Jains Buddhist Sikhs to restore their ‘places of worship and pilgrimages’, destroyed by barbaric invaders.”