The Places of Worship Act and its Provisions

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The Places of Worship Act and its Provisions

  • The Supreme Court will hear an appeal against the video survey of Varanasi's Gyanvapi mosque.
  • A Muslim body says the survey violates a law enacted by Parliament in 1991.

About the Appeal

  • A Varanasi court has directed the district administration to seal the spot inside the complex where allegedly 'shivling' has been found by the filming team.
  • The principal contention is that the order of the Varanasi court(upheld by Allahabad High Court) - is “clearly interdicted” by The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

The Places of Worship Act 1991

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  • An Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947.
  • Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion, in full or part, of a place of worship of any religious denomination into a place of worship of a different religious denomination.
  • Section 4(1) declares that the religious character of a place of worship “shall continue to be the same as it existed” on August 15, 1947.
  • Section 5 stipulates that the Act shall not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, and to any suit, appeal or proceeding relating to it.

Circumstances under 1991 law enacted

  • The Act was brought at a time when the Ram temple movement was at its peak.
  • The Babri Masjid was still standing, but the firing on kar sevaks in Uttar Pradesh had raised communal tensions.
  • The Act was Adopted to prevent any new controversies from arising in respect of conversion of any place of worship.

Supreme Court’s stand on the Act

  • The constitutional validity of the 1991 Act was not under challenge, nor had it been examined.
  • The Places of Worship Act imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism under the Indian Constitution.
  • The law is a legislative instrument designed to protect the secular features of the Indian polity, which is one of the basic features of the Constitution.
  • The Places of Worship Act is a legislative intervention which preserves non-retrogression as an essential feature of our secular values.


  • Maintaining the status quo as in 1947 in respect of religious places is like closing eyes similar to that of pigeons against the advancement of cats.
  • This will mean preservation of tensions for the coming generations.
  • The intention of Aurangzeb behind leaving remnants of the temple (he destroyed) at the site of the mosque, to keep reminding Hindus of their historical fate and to remind coming generations of Muslims of their past glory and power.