The Supreme Court on Monday granted time to the Centre till December 12 to clear its stand on a group of petitions challenging the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, PTI reported.
The law bars any changes to the religious character of places of worship as they stood at the time of Independence. It was passed at the height of the Babri Masjid dispute to prevent similar communal tussles over places of worship.
The Act, however, provided an exception for the Babri Masjid site.
A petition challenging the law has been filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested the court to list the case in the first week of December, so that he could consult the government on the matter, Bar and Bench reported. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala accepted the request.
“Counter-affidavit to be filed or before December 12 and we will list this on the first week of January 2023,” the court said.
Upadhyay, in his petition, claimed that the rule allows illegal acts by invaders by barring legal remedies for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. He contended that the law created an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cut-off date, [by] declaring that character of places of worship-pilgrimage shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947”.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy has also filed a petition in the matter, according to PTI. On Monday, he told the court that he was not seeking to set aside the Act, but that the two disputed sites at Kashi and Mathura should also be kept out of the purview of the law.
The court said that it will consider Swamy’s plea on the next date of the hearing.
The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board have made themselves parties to the case in support of the law.
The Muslim Personal Law Board has told the court that the Act is a “progressive legislation” in line with the secular values of Indian polity and promotes harmony, public tranquillity and peace among the different sections of society,