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Supreme Court: Places of worship act can’t be enforced within the same religion

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Indian Constitution- evolution, features


Sources: Hindustan Times

Context: SC has rejected a petition by a sect of the Jain community under Art 32 to enforce the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 against the alleged conversion of its religious places by another sect of the same religion.

What do the places of worship act, of 1991 say?

  • The act prohibits conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on 15th  August 1947.
  • The Act states that a place of worship’s religious nature must remain the same as it was on August 15, 1947.
  • It says no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.
  • It declares that all litigation, appeals, or other proceedings ongoing before any court or authority on August 15, 1947, involving converting the status of a place of worship, will cease as soon as the law takes effect. There will be no more legal action taken.


The following are exempt from these provisions:

  • Ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sitesand remains (covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958)
  • Any case, which has been finally settled or disposed of (the act will not apply to that case)
  • Doesn’t apply to the place of worship – Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.


Criticisms: It has been challenged on the ground that it bars judicial review and imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date”, and also abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.


SC observation about the Act: SC ( during the 2019 Ayodhya verdict) said that the law manifests the secular values of the Constitution and prohibits retrogression. It protects the secular features of the Indian polity.

Insta Links

Places of worship Act


Mains Link

Q. Enactment of the Places of Worship Act, 1991 in its current format damages the liberty of belief, faith and worship to all. Critically examine. (250 Words)


Prelims Link

Q.Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2020)

  1. The Constitution of India defines its ‘basic structure’ in terms of federalism, secularism, fundamental rights and democracy.
  2. The Constitution of India provides for ‘judicial review’ to safeguard the citizens’ liberties and to preserve the ideals on which the Constitution is based.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2 only

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

Constitution doesn’t explicitly provide for ‘Judicial Review’ but does it implicitly through Art 13 and 32. The term ‘judicial review’ is not mentioned in the Constitution.