When Hindu side hasn't sought altering structure’s character, how does Places of Worship Act come into play: SC on Gyanvapi row

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By ETV Bharat English Desk

Published : Oct 14, 2023, 12:23 PM IST

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A bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said if a suit filed for a right to worship at Varanasi's Gyanvapi mosque is barred from the Place of Worship Act, 1991, then that would depend on character and status of the structure as on August 15, 1947, the cut off date fixed under the statute.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday said if a suit filed for a right to worship at Varanasi's Gyanvapi mosque is barred from the Place of Worship Act, 1991, then that would depend on character and status of the structure as on August 15, 1947, which is the cut off date fixed under the statute. Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing the masjid side, argued that the ongoing suit is barred under the 1991 law.

To this, a bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said that the Act says you can't alter or convert nature of place and the Hindu side is not seeking conversion of the place. The bench, also comprising justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said the question is what is the status of place as on August 15, 1947.

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Ahmadi stressed that the 1991 law, was enacted to freeze the status of religious places of worship as they existed on August 15, 1947. The bench queried Ahmadi that is he saying that the relief sought by Hindu side is directly in the teeth of Places of Worship Act. The bench further queried that now the question is whether it is barred by the Act would depend upon character of the religious place as on August 15, 1947.

The counsel argued that it is ex facie barred because the plaint itself states it is a Masjid. Senior advocate Madhavi Divan, appearing for a group of Hindu women petioners, denied the contention. After hearing submissions the apex court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on Monday. The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Varanasi had challenged the maintainability of the suit as well as subsequent orders passed for undertaking a scientific survey by the Archaeological Survey of India at the Gyanvapi complex.

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