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SC demands reply from Centre on plea challenging 1991 law

The Supreme Court of India seeks Centre’s response on a plea challenging a 1991 law that prohibits conversion of any place of worship from the way it was on August 15, 1947. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and AS Bopanna issued notice to the Centre on a plea filed by advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

“Therefore, they [religious groups] won’t be able to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage including temples-endowments in spirit of Articles 25-26 [right to pray, practice and propagate religion-right to manage, maintain and administer places of worship] and illegal barbarian act of invaders will continue in perpetuity” the petition read.

The plea challenged the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. The Act is to protect the status of all religious structures as it existed on Independence Day. It will hinder courts from entertaining cases that raise a dispute over these religious places.

In his plea, what Upadhyay has stated is that the Act created an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cut-off date” of August 15, 1947. His petition also claimed that the law allows “illegal encroachment” on places of worship and stops Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs from approaching courts under Article 226. Upadhyay alleged that the provisions of the Act violates the basic principle of secularism. It acts against the duty of the government to preserve religious cultural heritage under Article 51 (A) protect historic places under Article 49 and of the Constitution.

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