Brain Booster for UPSC & State PCS Examination (Topic: Place of Worship Law)

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Topic: Place of Worship Law

Place of Worship Law

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court (SC) has asked the Centre to respond to a plea challenging the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. In agreeing to examine the law, the court has opened the doors for litigation in various places of worship across the country including Mathura and Varanasi.


  • Passed in 1991, the law seeks to maintain the “religious character” of places of worship as it was in 1947 — except in the case of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, which was already in court.
  • The law was brought in at the peak of the Ram Mandir movement, exactly a year before the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
  • The reasons given were that it was adopted to curb communal tension.

Key Provisions

  • The clause declares the objective of the law describes it as an Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947.
  • To maintain the religious character of a place of worship to be the same as it was on August 15, 1947 and that no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.
  • It provides that All suits, appeals or other proceedings regarding converting the character of a place of worship, that were pending on August 15, 1947, will stand delayed when the Act commences and no fresh proceedings can be filed.
  • However, legal proceedings can be initiated with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship after the commencement of the Act if the change of status took place after the cut-off date of August 15, 1947.


  • Act not to apply to Ram Janma Bhumi/Babri Masjid;
  • Any place of worship that is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site, or is covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958;
  • A suit that has been finally settled or disposed of; and
  • To sites where any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.


  • The petitioner has challenged the law on the ground that violates secularism.
  • It is also argued that the cut-off date of August 15, 1947 is “arbitrary, irrational and retrospective” and various religious sects from approaching courts to “re-claim” their places of worship which were “invaded” and “encroached” upon by “fundamentalist barbaric invaders.
  • Argument is given that the Centre has no power to legislate on “pilgrimages” or “burial grounds” which is under the state list.
  • However, the government had said it could make use of its residuary power under Entry 97 of the Union List to enact this law. Entry 97 confers residuary powers to the Centre to legislate on subjects that are not enumerated in any of the three lists.

Views of SC

  • SC manifests the secular values of the Constitution and strictly prohibits retrogression (conversion).
  • SC said that, ‘In providing a guarantee for the preservation of the religious character of places of public worship as of the date of Independence.
  • The norms of the act implement the Fundamental Duties under Article 51A and are hence positive mandates to every citizen as well.