The Places of Worship Act

The Places of Worship Act

News: An appeal against the video survey of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Mosque will be heard by the Supreme Court. The survey, according to a Muslim organization is the violation of Places of Worship Act, 1991.

About:
• It is described as “An Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Exemptions:
• The disputed site at Ayodhya was exempted from the Act. Due to this exemption, the trial in the Ayodhya case proceeded even after the enforcement of this law.
• The act further exempted, any place of worship which is an ancient and historical monument, or an archaeological site covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
• A suit that has been finally settled or disposed of.
• Any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.

Penalty:
• Section 6 of the Act prescribes a punishment of a maximum of three years’ imprisonment along with a fine for contravening the provisions of the Act.

Criticism:
• The law has been challenged based on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution, imposes an ‘arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date,’ and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs. 

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