New Delhi: A season of mega litigation with regard to the places of worship yet again. A key central law – the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 – itself is under challenge before the Supreme Court.
But the apex Court on Tuesday (May 17) is likely to hear a plea by the Committee of Management of Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, Varanasi, challenging the videography survey ordered by a local court of the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal in the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi structure.
The Muslim body contends that it is contrary to provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.
The Act states that the nature of all places of worship, except Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947.
It also states that no suit shall lie in any court with respect to the conversion of the religious character of a place of worship as existing on that date.
There are at least two pending petitions questioning the Act’s Constitutional validity on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution. Many contend that the 1991 law seeks to violate the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court, in its November 9, 2019, Ayodhya verdict, had described the Places of Worship Act of 1991 as “a legislative instrument designed to protect the secular features of the Indian polity”.
The appeal by the Masjid Committee, which challenges April 21, 2022, Allahabad High Court ruling dismissing its petition against the order of a Varanasi court ordering the videographic survey of the disputed site, is listed for May 17, Tuesday before the Supreme Court.
The bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and P S Narasimha is likely to hear it.
Earlier on April 8 this year, hearing a petition by five Hindu women seeking round-the-year access to pray at “a shrine behind the western wall of the mosque complex”, a civil court in Varanasi had appointed Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra to carry out an inspection of the disputed site—and directed him to “prepare videography of the action” and also submit a report.
On April 26, the Varanasi court again ordered videography of the disputed site.