What is the Religious Places of Worship Act 1991? Why is it in the news? – Know the key clauses / sanctions
Religious Worship Act 1991: With a furore of petitions calling for an investigation into places of worship to determine their true religious character, the focus is again on the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991. The Religious Worship Act 1991 prohibits the conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on 15 August 1947.
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Why is the Religious Worship Act 1991 in the news?
The controversial Religious Worship Act 1991 is in the news due to the ongoing Gyanvapi Masjid case, where a shivling was allegedly found during a video investigation of the mosque premises. The Supreme Court of India, hearing a plea challenging the May 17, 2022 video investigation, ordered the Varanasi District Magistrate to protect the area where the alleged ‘shivling’ was discovered without hindering the right of Muslims to enter and pray. The court is due to hear the case again on May 20.
The plea was filed by the management committee of Anjuman Intezamia Masjid and he argued that allowing the video investigation was contrary to the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991. The video investigation of Gyanvapi Masjid ended on May 16. While the Hindu side claims that a “Shivling” was found inside a tank in the mosque complex, the Muslim side denies the claim saying it is just a fountain.
Read: What is the Gyanvapi Masjid case?
What is the Religious Worship Act 1991?
The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 was brought into force on July 11, 1991 by the then Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao, at the height of the Ram Mandir movement. The law prohibits conversion of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947. It covers all of India except Jammu and Cashmere.
The law stipulates that legal action could be taken if the change of religious character of the place of worship was carried out after August 15, 1947. It also does not apply to the Ram Janma Bhumi Babri Masjid case.
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Religious Worship Act 1991: main provisions
Section 3- Bar conversion of places of worship: Under the Act, no one may convert a place of worship of any
religious denomination or any section thereof in a place of worship in a different section of the same
religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or section thereof.
Section 4- Declaration relating to the religious character of certain places of worship and bar of jurisdiction
1. The law states that the religious character of a place of worship existing on August 15, 1947 must continue to be the same as it existed on that day.
2. The law states that any suit, appeal or other proceeding concerning the conversion of the religious character of a place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, pending before a court, tribunal or other authority, will end with the commencement of the law. It also prohibits further calls about it.
Religious Worship Act 1991: penalty
Violation of Section 3 of the Act is punishable by imprisonment for up to three years and is also subject to a fine.
What is called worship law?
The Worship Act prohibits the conversion of any place of worship into a place of worship of a different religion or even a different section of the same religion.
What are the places of worship called?
Places of worship means temple, mosque, gurudwara, church, monastery or any other religious place of worship of any religious rule.
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