#222: Places of Worship Act 1991
06 December 1992
A day that changed Indian polity forever
It prompted Govt. of India to act fast
How did PM PV Narsimha Rao react to it?
Interestingly, he already acted on cases related to Places of Worship!
No, not on 06/12/92 ..but a year prior. How?
The Places of Worship Act 1991
What did it do?
Froze status of religious places of worship
• To as they existed on August 15 1947
• EXCEPT Ram Janam Bhoomi Case (RJB)
Why? It was already in the court
PM Rao wanted to put a check on such calls (Kashi/Mathura/others)
He also made an effort to Sh. LK Advani's rath yatra and chose to come up with PoWA 1991
Here are key features of the act for #UPSC
• Prohibits conversion of any Place of Worship
• Ensures maintenance of their religious character
• Any ongoing legal proceedings pre 15/08/1947 to be terminated + no new cases to be initiated
Wait CSEWhy! So, no exceptions except? Nothing is absolute, my friend!
Here are exceptions other than RJB Case:
• Not applied to sites under Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act)
• Any case that is already resolved
Needless to mention, it encountered criticism
Let me take you through a few:
1. Arbitrary Cutoff Date of 15 Aug 1947
• Set in retrospect w/o research, opposition argued: "This cut off date disregards historical injustices & denies redressal for encroachments before that date"
2. Violates Secularism
• Undermines constitutional equal treatment of religions
• Favors one community over the other
3. RJB Case exclusion
• Exclusion of RJB Ayodhya invited criticism
• PM Rao was even projected as weak and bending to tunes of pro-Hindu outfits in the country
4. Violates Right to Religion
• Hindus, Jains, Buddhists & Sikhs found their religious rights infringed upon!
• Argument: Act restricts ability to reclaim/restore PoW
(Quiz: Which article gives you Right To Religion? Share your answer in reply without google)
5. Prevents Judicial Review
Act prevented scope of Judicial Review This, as per critics, undermines checks & balances system Interestingly, Supreme Court had point to make here:
• It is a legislative intervention upholding secular commitment
• It enforces state's constitutional obligation to ensure equality among all religions
• It guarantees preservation of PoW for every religious community Political Party in opposition then is in power today
As a result, since RJB Case Judgement, demand of PoWA review is in the political discourse
What shall be way forward here, CSEWhy?
Take a look
• Undertake thorough review to address shortcomings
• Strike balance b/w religious character & community rights
• No decision without wide public consultation in transparent, fair and impartial manner
• Avoid restricting judiciary's role and enable Judicial Review