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Muslim body moves SC against Hindu group's challenge to religious places law


New Delhi: A Muslim organisation has moved the Supreme Court challenging a plea filed by a Hindu body, opposing the constitutional validity of Section 4 of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which provides for maintaining the "religious character" of holy structures as it existed on August 15, 1947.

The petition, filed by Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, has urged the apex court not to issue notice in the matter.

"It is submitted that even issuance of notice in the present matter will create fear in the minds of the Muslim community with regard to their places of worship, especially in the aftermath of the Ayodhya Dispute and will destroy the secular fabric of the nation," said the plea, citing that it is an attempt to open litigation route on disputed religious structures other than the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya.

The plea said: "Section 4 of the Places of Worship Act, prevents members of the Hindu Community from reclaiming those places of worship, which according to the Petitioners were Hindu places of worship but were allegedly, converted by Muslim invaders... it is apparent that the present petition seeks to indirectly target places of worship which are presently of Muslim character."

The petitioner contended that the top court itself noted that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 protects and secures the fundamental values of the Constitution. And, the top court has also concluded that the Act imposes an obligation towards enforcing the commitment to secularism under the Constitution.

"It was further observed that it was a legislative instrument designed to protect the secular features of the Indian polity, which is one of the basic features of the Constitution. The Places of Worship Act is intrinsically related to the obligations of a secular state. It reflects the commitment of India to the equality of all religions," added the plea.

The Muslim body has also urged the apex court to allow it to implead as a party in the matter.

The PIL filed by 'Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh' sought directions from the apex court to declare Section 4 of the 1991 Act as ultra vires and unconstitutional. The petitioners' contentions gains significance in the case of Kashi and Mathura where two disputed mosques stand. The law does not allow the conversion of a temple into a mosque and vice versa.

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