GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The ongoing row over Gyanvapi mosque situated next to Kashi Vishwanath temple complex in Varanasi has once again brought to the fore the controversy around the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. The recent controversy began when five Hindu women filed a plea to worship idols within the Gyanvapi mosque complex.

What is the Places of Worship Act, 1991?

  1. The Places of Worship Act, 1991, prohibits "conversion of any place of worship" and provides "for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto".
  2. Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion of places of worship. It states, "No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof."
  3. Section 4(1) of the Act states that "the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day".
  4. Section 4(2) of the Act further states that "any suit, appeal or other proceeding with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, existing on the 15th day of August, 1947, is pending before any court, tribunal or other authority, the same shall abate, and no suit, appeal or other proceeding with respect to any such matter shall lie on or after such commencement in any court, tribunal or other authority". 
  5. The original Gyanvapi mosque suit was filed in 1991 in the Varanasi district court for the restoration of the ancient temple at the site where the Gyanvapi mosque currently stands.
  6. Section 5 of the Act stipulates that the particular law does not apply to Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case or any suit, appeal or other proceeding relating to it.