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, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Be it enacted by Parliament in the Forty-second Year of the Republic of India as
STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS
In view of the controversies arising from time to time with regard to
conversions of places of worship, it is felt that such conversions should be prohibited.
2. In order to foreclose any controversy in respect of any place of
worship that existed on 15th day of August, 1947 it is considered necessary to provide for
the maintenance of the religious character of such place of worship as it existed on the
15th day of August 1947. As a consequence thereof, all the suits or other proceedings
pending as on 11th day of July, 1991 with respect to any of such places of worship, may
abate and also further suits of other proceedings may be barred.
3. However, since the case relating to the place commonly called Ram
Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid forms a class by itself, it has become necessary to exempt it
entirely from the operation of this Act.
4. Moreover, in order to maintain communal harmony and peace, matters
decided by courts, tribunals or other authorities, or those settled by parties amongst
themselves or through acquiescence, between 15th day of August,1947 and the 11th day of
July. 1991 are also exempted from the operation of this Act.
5. The 11th day of July, 1991 is proposed as the commencement date of the Act as on
that day the President addressed the Parliament making such a declaration.
For determining the purpose or object of the legislation, it is
permissible to look into the circumstances which prevailed at the time when the law was
passed and which necessitated the passing of that law. For the limited purpose of
appreciating the background and the antecedent factual matrix leading to the legislation,
it is permissible to look into the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill which
actuated the step to provide a remedy for the then existing malady. [Shashikant Laxman
Kale v. Union of India, A.l.R. 1990 S.C. 2114 at p. 2119; see also Union of India v. Deoki
Nandal Aggarwal, A.I.R. 1992 S.C. 96 at p. 101.]
Preambl - Meaning of- Preamble means merely the prefatory note
or the introductory paragraph containing casual or passing reference to insignificant
facts not intended to be relied upon. [Sanju Dora v. State of Orissa, 1995 Cr.L.J. 3150 at
p. 3151 (Orissa).]
1. Short title, extent and commencement.- (1) This Act may be
called the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and
(3) The provisions of Secs. 3,6 and 8 shall come into force at once and
the remaining provisions of this Act shall be deemed to have come into force on the 11th
day of July,1991.
Construction of Statute.- A statute is to be construed according to
the intent of them that make it and the duty of judicature is to act upon the true
intention of the Legislature the means sententia legis. [Chain Singh v. State of
Rajasthan, A.I.R. 1991 Raj. 17 at p. 28; see also Mohan Kumar Singhania v. Union of India,
A.I.R. 1992 S.C. I at p. 21, Byram Pestonji Gariwala v. Union Bank of India. (1992) I
S.C.C. 31 at p. 44; Umakant v. Dr. Bhikalal Jain, (1992) I S.C.C. 105 at pp. 113, 114.]
It is the duty of Courts to accept a construction which promotes the
object of the legislation and also prevents its possible abuse even through the mere
possibility of abuse of a provision does not affect its constitutionality or construction.
Abuse has to be checked by constant vigilance and monitoring of individual cases by a
suitable machinery at a high level. [Sanjay Dutt v. State, 1995 Cr.L.J. 477 at p. 490
2. Definitions- In this Act, unless the context
(a) "commencement of this Act" means the commencement of this Acton the
11th day of July, 1991;
(b) "conversion" with its grammatical variations,
includes alteration or change of whatever nature;
(c) "place of worship" means a temple, mosque, gurudwara,
church, monastery of any other place of public religious worship of any religious
denomination or any section thereof, by whatever name called.
3. Bar of conversion of places of worship.- 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.
4. Declaration as to the religious character of certain places of
worship and bar of jurisdiction of courts, etc.-(1) It is hereby declared 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.
(2) If, on the commencement of this Act, 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:
Provided that if any suit, appeal or other proceeding instituted or
filed on the ground that conversion has taken place in the religious character of any such
place after the 15th day of August, 1947, is pending on the commencement of this Act, such
suit, appeal or other proceeding shall be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of
(3) Nothing contained in sub-sections ( I ) and (2) shall apply to.
(a) any place of worship referred to in the said sub-sections
which is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site or remains covered
by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958), or
any other law for the time being in force;
(b) any suit, appeal or other proceeding, with respect to any
matter referred to in sub-section (2), finally decided, settled or disposed of by a court,
tribunal or other authority before the commencement of this Act.
(c) any dispute with respect to any such matter settled by the parties
amongst themselves before such commencement;
(d) any conversion of any such place effected before such commencement
(e) any conversion of any such place effected before such commencement
which is not liable to be challenged in any court, tribunal or other authority being
barred by litmitation under any law for the time being in force.
Proviso.- It is cardinal rule of interpretation that a proviso to a
particular provision of a statute only embraces the field which is covered by the main
provision. It carves out an exception to the main provision to which it has been enacted
by the proviso and to no other. The proper function of a proviso is to except and deal
with a case which would otherwise fall within the general language of the main enactment,
and its effect is to confine to that case, where the language of the main enactment is
explicit and unambiguous, the proviso can have no repercussion on the interpretation of
the main enactment, so as to exclude from it, by implication what clearly falls within its
express terms. [A.N. Sehgal v. Raja Ram Sheoram, A.I.R. 1991 S.C. 1406 at p. 1414; see
also Tribhovandas Haribhai Tamboli v. Gujarat Revenue Tribunal, A.l.R. 1991 S.C. 1538:
(1991)3 S.C.C. 442 at p. 447; Toguru Sudhakar Reddy v. Government of A.P., A.I.R.
1992 A.P. 19; Krishna Chandra Mandal v. Smt. Mandavi Devi, A.l.R. 1996 Pat. 159atp. 162.]
5. Act not to apply to Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid.- Nothing
contained in this Act shall apply to the place or place of worship commonly known as Ram
Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid situated in Ayodhya hi the State of Uttar Pradesh and to any
suit, appeal or other proceeding relating to the said place or place of worship.
6. Punishment for contravention of Sec.- 3.(1) Whoever
contravenes the provisions of Sec. 3 shall be punishable with imprisomnent for a term
which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
(2) Whoever attempts to commit any offence punishable under subsection
(1) or to cause such offence to be committed and in such attempt does any act towards the
commission of the offences shall be punishable with punishment provided for the offence.
(3) Whoever abets, or is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit, an
offence punishable under sub-section ( 1 ) shall, whether such offence be or be not
committed in consequence of such abetment or in pursuance of such criminal conspiracy, and
notwithstanding anything contained in Sec. 116 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) be
punishable with the punishment provided for the offence.
Abetment.- Section 116 of the Indian Penal Code, deals with
abetment of oftences punishable with imprisonment. The said section is reproduced here as
"116. Abetment of offence punishable with imprisonment- if offence be not
committed.- Whoever abets an offence punishable with imprisonment shall, if that
offence be not committed in consequence of the abetment, and no express provision is made
by this Code for tile punishment of such abetments be punished with imprisonment of any
description provided for that offence for a term which may extent to one-fourth part of
the longest term provided for that offense; or with such fine as is provided for that
offence, or with both.
If abettor or person abetted be a public servant whose duty it is to
prevent offence.- If the abettor or the person abetted is a public servant, whose duty
it is to prevent the commission of such offence, the abettor shall be punished with
imprisonment of any description provided for that offence, for a term which may extend to
one-half of the longest term provided for that offence, or with such fine as is provided
for the offence, or with both."
Abetment.- The offence of abetment is complete when the alleged
abettor has instigated another or engaged with another in a conspiracy to commit the
offence. It is not necessary for the offence of abetment that the act abetted must be
[Jamuna Singh it. State of Bihar, A.l.R. 1987 S.C. 553 at p. 554.]
In order to constitute abetment, the abettor must be shown to have
"intentionally" aided to commission of the crime. Mere proof that the crime
charged could not have been committed without the interposition of the alleged abettor is
not enough compliance with the requirements of Sec. 107. It is not enough that an act on
the part of the alleged abettor happens to faciliate the commission of the crime. [Raja
Asari v. State 1995 (4) Crimes 461 at p. 468 (Mad.).]
Thus, the petitioner has been able to make out a case that from the
evidence which has been brought on record, there is nothing to suggest that the petitioner
was aiding or he committed any overt act which resulted in abetment. There is nothing on
record that there was any instigation, on any positive step was taken by the petitioner.
[Jagdish Prasad Agrawal v. State of M.P.7 1996 (4) Crimes 13 at p. 16. (M.P.).]
When no inference of abetment can be drawn.- No inference of
abetment can be drawn against the husband and in laws, specially when there was no
reliable evidence of torture or cruelty for bringing insufficient dowry. [Bansiya v. State
of Rajasthan7 1995 (3) Crimes 7s at p. 79 (Raj.).]
Penal provision-Interpretation of.- The settled rule of
construction of penal provisions is, that "if there is a reasonable interpretation
which will avoid the penalty in any particular case, the Court must adopt that
construction and if there are two reasonable constructions, the Court must give the more
lenient one'; and if 'two possible and reasonable constructions can be put upon a penal
provision, the Court must lean towards that construction which exempts the subject from
penalty rather than the one which imposes penalty. [Sanjay Dutt v. State, 1995 Cr.L.l. 477
at p. 490 (S.C.); see also S.K.D. Lakshmanan Fireworks Industries, M/s. v. K.V.
Sivarama Krishnan, 1995 Cr.L.J. 1384 at p. 1390 (Ker.) (F.B.).]
7. Act to override other enactments.- The provisions of this Act
shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent there with contained in any other
law for the time being in force or any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other
than this Act.
8. Amendment of Act 43 of 1951.- In Sec. 8 of the Representation
of the People Act, 1951, in sub-section (l ).-
(a) in CI. (i), the word "or" shall be inserted at the end;
(b) after CI. (i) as so amended, the following clause shall be
(i) Sec. 6 (offence of conversion of a place of worship) of the Places
of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.''