A representative of the erstwhile royal family of Kashi has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Places of Worship Act, 1992.
The application by Maharaja Kumari Krishna Priya, daughter of the current titular head of the erstwhile royal family, and two others has contended that the 1992 Act is a “textbook instance of a legislation that was passed in the most undemocratic of manners possible, without any regard for fundamental rights of affected parties, in particular the right of formerly colonised indigenous communities to seek reclamation of occupied religious cum civilisational sites”.
The plea filed through advocate J Sai Deepak urged the court to permit them to become parties in writ petitions — already pending and listed for hearing before the SC on Friday — on the issue so that they can present their arguments in law.
On the Places of Worship Act, the application stated, “For a legislation that shuts the doors of justice to affected communities and parties, it was ‘debated’ only on three dates i.e., 23.08.1991, 09.09.1991 and 10.09.1991 and the Bill was passed on the last of the said dates. The debate of 23.08.1991 clearly captures the fact that the period of seven days’ notice was not afforded to members of Lok Sabha before the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Bill dated 22.08.1991 was introduced”.
That it exempted the Ayodhya dispute from its purview “itself highlights in stark relief the discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious nature of the Act”, the petition said.
It submits that “a study ought to have been undertaken to identify the number of such pending disputes, which too could have been entitled to a similar exemption”. It urged the court to treat claimants of other occupied religious sites at par with owners of Ramjanmabhoomi so that they too have the opportunity to present evidence before a court of law to make good their case for restoration of their sites.
The petition said that “it is indeed shocking that the Government of an ‘independent’, formerly colonised country deemed it fit to enact a legislation which places an embargo on reclamation of occupied religious sites of indigenous/Bharatiya faith systems”. The Act, it added, “is a textbook example of oikophobia/oikomisia and misautogeny i.e., hatred or contempt for one’s own people and culture” and “demonstrates its “colonial consciousness…which perpetuates a state of affairs that existed during the period of colonisation, either Middle Eastern or European”.
The Act “actively stands in the way of the truth being laid bare through constitutional means before a court of law through evidence which is legally admissible”, the application stated.
Stating that it cannot be contended that the Constitution places lesser premium on truth and celebrates all other values, including secularism, at the expense of truth, the plea stated that “every time the truth is brushed under the carpet ostensibly in the name of secularism, it contributes to communal disharmony”. Therefore, it stated, “to contend that the truth must be given a silent burial to preserve secularism and to maintain communal harmony is to commit an error of logic, apart from insensitively taking away the right of the victims of colonisation to present the evidence of the ravages of colonisation and its continuing injustice in “independent” Bharat, namely the continued occupation of their religious and civilisational sites which they continue to hold dear”.
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The second applicant is Santosh Tamilarasan, a member of Tuluva Vellalar community, “which rebuilt the Kapaleeshwara Temple in Chennai after its destruction by the Portugese” and which has “exclusive right of trusteeship in the Kapaleeshwara Temple”. Tamilarasan has contended that the “St Thomas Basilica now stands in its place”.
The third applicant is a Vaishnavaite, who said he, too, has the “duty and right to seek reclamation of the Bindu Madhav Mandir”.
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