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Recently the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to respond to a plea challenging the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. In this light Discuss what is the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, and the issues associated with ...


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Q. Recently the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to respond to a plea challenging the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. In this light Discuss what is the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, and the issues associated with it? 

Viewpoints:

  • What is the place of worship's special provisions act 1991?

  • What are the salient features of places of worship & emphasize the features of the act?

  • What are the issues and criticism associated with this act?

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Ans: Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 was to freeze the status of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947. It was also to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of such a place of worship as on that day. 

Salient Features of the Act: 

  • It says no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section. 

  • It declares that all suits, appeals, or any other proceedings regarding converting the character of a place of worship, which are pending before any court or authority on August 15, 1947, will abate as soon as the law comes into force. No further legal proceedings can be instituted. 

Criticisms Against The Act:

  • It is also argued that the cut-off date of August 15, 1947 is “arbitrary, irrational and retrospective” and prohibits Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs from approaching courts to “reclaim” their places of worship which were “invaded” and “encroached” upon by “fundamentalist barbaric invaders”.

  • It is also being argued that the Centre has no power to legislate on “pilgrimages” or “burial grounds'' which are under the state list. But it's residuary power under Entry 97 of the Union List to enact this law. 

Some Hindu organizations have been laying claim to the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah in Mathura. Civil suits have been filed in a Mathura court seeking the shifting of the 17th-century mosque from the spot that some claim is the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

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