Written By- Pretika tiwari
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, while opposing the plea challenging the Places of Worships (Special provisions) Act, 1991 stated that the Act was brought into effect to prevent disharmony in society. The BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay questioned the Act’s constitutional validity, saying that it forbids remedies for illegal encroachment on places of worship and pilgrimage that were established before August 15, 1947. Mr Upadhyay, in his petition, had challenged sections 2,3 and 4 of the Act, wherein it took away the rights of the people of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs, to reclaim their places of worship through Courts.
Any disagreement over a place of worship between communities is extremely sensitive, puts the public’s safety in peril, and upsets the peace and tranquillity of the community. The Board claimed in an impleading application that the Act’s intent and purpose is to end such outmoded and obsolete arguments concerning the place of worship. The Act, in the Board’s opinion, is progressive legislation that upholds the secular values of Indian polity, gives substance to every religious group’s right to equal treatment by the state, and obliges the state to act as a benign neutral in the event of conflicts between various religious groups. As a result, the Act’s constitutional legality is upheld in full force under the doctrine of non-retrogression. According to the non-retrogression principle, once the government has extended protection beyond what the Constitution mandates, it cannot take it back.
While referring to the case of M Siddique v. Suresh Das (Ram Janmabhoomi case), the application of the Board mentions that the SC had observed that the Act places a non-revocable obligation on us to uphold our constitutionally mandated commitment to secularism. Accordingly, the application added, quoting the ruling, that the statute is a legislative instrument designed to defend the secular elements of Indian polity, which are also one of the fundamental features of the Constitution.