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Governance

Places of Worship Act, 1991

  • 11 Nov 2019
  • 2 min read

Why in News

The Supreme Court in its recent Ayodhya verdict made mention of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 which prohibits the conversion of religious places of worship as it existed at the time of Independence.

Significance of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991

  • The Act was passed in September 1991, over a year before the demolition of the Babri Masjid (1992).
  • Purpose:
    • Section 3 of the Act bans the conversion of a place of worship or even a section of it into a place of worship of a different religious denomination or of a different segment of the same religious denomination.
    • The Act also imposes a positive obligation on the State to maintain the religious character of every place of worship as it existed at the time of Independence.
      • This legislative obligation on the State to preserve and protect the equality of all faiths is an essential secular feature and one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution.
  • Exemption:
    • The disputed site at Ayodhya is exempted from the Act. Due to this exemption, the trial in the Ayodhya case proceeded even after the enforcement of this law.
    • The Act also does not apply to any place of worship which is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • Penalty: Section 6 of the Act prescribes a punishment of maximum three-years imprisonment along with a fine for contravening the provisions of the Act.

Source: TH

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