A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court by Dharma Guru Devkinandan Thakur Ji to challenge the validity of Sections 2, 3, 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, which not only offends Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, 29 but also violates the principles of secularism, which is an integral part of the Preamble and basic structure of the Constitution.
Recently, a flurry of petitions have been filed in the Apex Court challenging the Places of Worship Act. A fourth petition has been filed in one week. Now Dharma Guru Devkinandan Thakur has reached out to the Supreme Court against the Places of Worship Act challenging its constitutionality and claiming it to be void. The PIL has been filed through Advocate-on-Record Ashutosh Dubey on behalf of the petitioner. So far, a total of seven petitions have been filed.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Culture have been made respondents in the said petition.
Till date, seven petitions have been filed challenging the Places of Worship Act 1991, including four petitions filed in one week itself. The seven petitioners are: BJP Leader and Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay followed by Petitions by Subramanian Swamy, Vishwa Purohit Sangh, Adv. Chandra Shekhar, Adv. Rudra Vikram Singh, Swami Jitendranand Saraswati and Swami Devkinandan Thakur.
In a PIL filed by Adv. Ashwini Upadhyay against the Places of Worship Act 1991, notice was issued by the Supreme Court to the Government on March 12, 2021, however, the government has till date not filed a reply.
According to the petition filed on behalf of Dharm Guru Devkinandan Thakur, maxim "Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium" has been frustrated by the 1991 Act in pending suit, in which cause of action has arisen or continue and the remedy available to aggrieved person through court has been abolished thus violating the concept of justice and Rule of Law, which is core of Article 14.
The Petitioner challenges the constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 as it is void and unconstitutional. The Act has been enacted in the garb of ‘Public order’,
which is a State subject [Entry-1, List-II, Schedule-7]. Likewise, Pilgrimage, other than pilgrimages to places outside India is also a State subject [Entry-7, List-II, Schedule-7] Therefore, Centre has no legislative competence to enact the impugned Act.
The petition states that,
- Section 2 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 is void and unconstitutional for being violative of Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, 29, in so far as it seeks to validate the ‘places of worship’, illegally constructed by the barbaric invaders;
- Section 3 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 is void and unconstitutional for being violative of Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, 29, in so far as it seeks to validate the ‘places of worship’, illegally constructed by cruel aggressors;
- Section 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 is void and unconstitutional for being violative of Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, 26, 29, in so far as it seeks to validate the ‘places of worship’, illegally erected by brutal attackers.
The PIL further states that,
- Article 13(2) prohibits the State to make laws to take away the rights conferred under Part III but the Act takes away the rights of Hindus Jains Buddhist Sikhs to restore their ‘places of worship and pilgrimages’, destroyed by barbaric invaders.
- The impugned Act also excludes the birthplace of Lord Rama but includes the birthplace of Lord Krishna, though both are the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Creator and equally worshiped all over the world, hence arbitrary, irrational and offends Articles 14 and 15.
- Right to justice, right to judicial remedy, right to dignity are integral part of Article 21 but impugned Act brazenly offends them.
- Rights to pray, profess, practice and propagate religion of Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs, guaranteed under Article 25, have been deliberately and brazenly offended by the 1991 Act.
- The 1991 Act blatantly offends the rights of Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs to restore, manage, maintain and administer the ‘places of worship and pilgrimage’, guaranteed under Article 26.
- Right to restore and preserve script and culture of Hinduism Jains Buddhists Sikhs, guaranteed under Article 29 has been brazenly offended by the 1991 Act.
- Directive principles are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the Country and Article 49 directs the State to protect the places of national importance from disfigurement and destruction. State is obligated to respect the ideals and institutions and values and preserve the rich heritage of Indian culture. Only those places can be protected, which were erected or constructed in accordance with personal laws of the person who constructed them, but places constructed in derogation of the personal law, cannot be termed as a ‘place of worship'.
- The retrospective cutoff date i.e. 15.8.1947 was fixed to legalize the illegal acts of barbaric invaders and foreign rulers.
- The Hindu Law was the ‘Law in force’ at the commencement of the Constitution by virtue of Article 372(1).
- Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs have the right to profess, practice and propagate religion as provided in their religious scriptures and Article 13 prohibits from making law which takes away their rights.
- On the touchstone of the principle of secularism, read with Articles 14-15, it is very clear that the State cannot show its inclination/hostile attitude towards any religion, may be majority or minority. Thus, the impugned act violates the principle of secularism.
- The mosque constructed at temple land cannot be a mosque, not only for the reason that such construction is against Islamic law, but also on grounds that the property once vested in the deity continues to be deity’s property and right of deity and devotees are never lost, howsoever long illegal encroachment continues on such property. Right to restore back religious property is unfettered and continuing wrong and injury may be cured by judicial remedy.
Claiming the Places of Worship Act, 1991 as Void and Unconstitutional, the present petition has been filed by petitioner Dharma Guru Devkinandan Thakur, through Advocate Ashutosh Dubey, AOR.