In remarks that may offer a peek into the Centre’s line of thinking on the Places of Worship Act, 1991, Union Home minister Amit Shah on Thursday said that no law made in the country is above judicial scrutiny. The Supreme Court has set a December 12 deadline for the Centre to spell out its stand on the 1991 Act, which has been challenged in the top court.
“The challenge to the Places of Worship Act, 1991, is among the issues that have emerged after the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict. All I can say is that every law made must pass legal scrutiny. This law (the 1991 Act) has been challenged in court. Let’s see what the court decides,” Shah said at the Times Now Summit when specifically asked about the Centre’s stand on the Act.
When further quizzed if there was any thinking within the government on making changes to the Act, Shah said it would spell out its stand in court. “The government has been served a notice and the government will file its affidavit. We will definitely spell out our stand clearly,” he added.
On November 14 this year, the Supreme Court granted Centre time till December 12 to file a comprehensive affidavit to petitions challenging the validity of certain provisions of the Act which prohibit the filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947. The matter is expected to be taken up for hearing in the first week of January 2023.
Shah’s remarks also assume significance in view of the impression that the BJP has been dragging its feet on clarifying its stand on the 1991 Act, even as the RSS, its ideological mentor, continues to push the government to review the law.
The Act is also at the centre of the ongoing row over the Gyanvapi mosque dispute. Subramanian Swamy, one of the petitioners challenging the Act in the top court, has contended that like the Ayodhya Ram temple dispute, the matters pertaining to alleged disputed sites at Kashi and Mathura be kept out of the purview of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
Besides Swamy’s petition, the top court is also hearing pleas including the one filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay who has contended that Sections 2, 3, 4 of the 1991 Act be set aside on grounds that they take away the right of judicial remedy to reclaim a place of worship of any person or a religious group.