Places of Worship Act won’t apply in Shahi Idgah case, says Mathura court

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Hindu temple Krishna Janmabhoomi and the Shahi Idgah Mosque side by side in Mathura UP. [Photo: Wikimedia]

Mathura: The court, while allowing the petition seeking the removal of the Shahi Idgah in Mathura, stated that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 is not applicable to the suit, since the suit was originally filed in 1964, and the current 2020 suit challenges a ‘compromise agreement’ signed in 1968, years before the Places of Worship Act came into force in the year 1991.

The order also said a worshipper could file a suit as the next friend of a deity, The Hindu reported.

However, the lawyers of the Shahi Idgah said the Supreme Court should make its stand clear on the 1991 Act, or else the lower courts would continue to interpret it arbitrarily.

The petitioners, Bhagwan Shri Krishna Virajman, Ashthan Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi moved through next friend Ranjana Agnihotri, had argued the agreement reached between Shri Krishna Janmasathan Sev Sansthan and Shahi Idgah Trust in 1968 was fraudulent and it resulted in a compromise decree in 1974.

In the agreement, the Society had conceded the ‘valuable property’ of the deity/ Trust to the Shahi Idgah Trust without having the right to enter into a compromise, the petitioners said.

The lawyers representing the Idgah Trust argued that the Society was an agent of the Trust and the compromise agreement was also subsequently registered.

District judge Rajeev Bharti reasoned as the decree was drawn before the commencement of the Act of 1991 and since the same is the subject matter of challenge in the suit moved by the petitioner, and, therefore, by virtue of Section 4 (3) (b) of 1991 Act, the Act shall not be applicable on this dispute.

Noting, “Nothing contained in sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) shall apply to any suit, appeal or other proceedings, with respect to any matter, referred to in sub-section (2) finally decided, settled or disposed of by a court, tribunal or authority before the commencement of this Act,” Bharti said, “in light of the discussions made and the legal tenets on the mentioned question, this court is of the considered view that the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 are not applicable.”

Bharti passed the order on Thursday but it was uploaded only on Saturday. The suit that was dismissed by a lower court in September 2020, saying the plaintiffs being the devotees of Shri Krishna had no right to file the suit, had come up for revision.

The court said a worshipper, as the next friend of a deity, can file a suit for restoration of the religious rights of the deity.

The order further said the lower court committed illegality and asked it to hear both sides. “Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to maintain the suit would be determined only during the trial on the basis of evidence adduced by both the parties,” the order said.

Advocate Tanveer Ahmed who argued for the Shahi Idgah Trust said the Supreme Court should make its stand clear on the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act.


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