Places of Worship Act: SC asks Centre to file affidavit by Dec 12 on pleas challenging its validity

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday granted time till December 12 to the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit to petitions challenging the validity of certain provisions of a 1991 law, which prohibit filing of a lawsuit to reclaim a place of worship or seek a change in its character from what prevailed on August 15, 1947.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that the reply could not be filed and the matter can be taken up later.

“I need to consult with the Government for filing a detailed counter. If some time can be given,” the law officer said.

The bench adjourned the hearing on the petitions after taking note of the submissions that due deliberations with government authorities were needed and asked the Centre to file a “comprehensive” one on or before December 12.

The bench asked the Centre to share its response with the parties concerned and decided to hear the pleas in the first week of January 2023.

Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that he has not sought setting aside of the Act in his petition.

He said that like Ayodhya Ram temple dispute, the matters pertaining to alleged disputed sites at Kashi and Mathura be kept out of the purview of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

“I am not asking for the quashing of the Act. But two temples be added and the Act can stand as it is,” he said.

The bench said it will consider Swamy’s plea on the next date of hearing.

Earlier, the bench had granted time till October 31 to the Centre to file its reply to the petitions.

The top court was hearing the pleas, including the one filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay who has said sections 2, 3, 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 be set aside on grounds including that these provisions take away the right of judicial remedy to reclaim a place of worship of any person or a religious group.