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Places of Worship Act, 1991

2022 MAY 18

Preliminary   > Polity   >   Miscellaneous   >   Archaeological sites

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the order of a civil court in Varanasi directing a videographic survey of the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal in the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex.
  • The principal contention is that the order of the Varanasi court which was upheld by Allahabad High Court is a violation of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

About The Places of Worship Act:

  • This law was enacted by the Parliament in 1991 in the backdrop of the Ram Mandir agitation.
  • This Act freezes the religious character of a place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.
  • Section 3 of the Act prohibits:
    • The conversion of a religious place of worship or a section of a religious place of worship into a place of worship of a different religion or a different denomination of the same religion.
  • According to Section 4(2) of the Act:
    • All appeals, suits or other proceedings with respect to converting the religious character of a place of worship shall end on the commencement of the Act.
    • Also, fresh appeals won’t be allowed to be filed.
    • Legal proceedings could be initiated if the change of religious character of the place of worship was done after the cut-off date of August 15, 1947.
  • In addition, the Places of Worship Act imposes a positive obligation on the State to maintain the religious character of all places of worship as it existed at the time of independence.
  • The disputed site of the Ayodhya Ram Temple was exempted from the Act.
  • The Act imposes a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment along with a fine for violation of provisions.

Other exemptions under the Act:

  • 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.
  • Any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.


Consider the following statements regarding The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991

1. It provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on 1st January 1991.

2. The disputed site at Ayodhya was exempted from the Act.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2