In an important observation, the Supreme Court on Friday orally observed that the ascertainment of the religious character of a place of worship is not barred by the Places of Worship Act, 1991.
A bench, headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices Surya Kant and P.S. Narasimha said: “Ascertainment of religious character is not barred under Section 3 (of the Places of Worship Act, 1991).”
It told senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing the masjid committee: “Suppose there is a Parsi temple and there is a cross in the corner of the area. Does the presence of Agyari make the cross Agyari or Agyari Christian? This hybrid character is not unknown in India.”
Contesting it, Ahmadi replied that the religious character of the Gyanvapi mosque, on August 15, 1947, is not in dispute. However, counsel representing the Hindu parties insisted that is strongly in dispute.
As the bench further added that the ascertainment of the religious character of a place does not fall foul of Section 3 and 4 of the Places of Worship Act, 1991, Ahmadi replied that if all these determinations are allowed to take place, the Act may become a dead letter.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, said that the Shivling should be protected.
According to Section 4 of the Act, the religious character of a place of worship existing on August 15, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day. Section 3 of the Act says no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.
Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Varanasi has opposed the suit relating to the Gyanvapi mosque, saying the civil court which is hearing the case is barred from doing so in view of the 1991 Act. The Supreme Court has asked the Varanasi District Judge to decide the suit.
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