From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Private Members Bill
Mains level : Places of worship act
Opposition members protested against the introduction of a private member’s Bill on the repeal of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, in the Rajya Sabha.
Private Member’s Bill
- A private member’s Bill is different from a government Bill and is piloted by an MP who is not a minister. An MP who is not a minister is a private member.
- Individual MPs may introduce private member’s Bill to draw the government’s attention to what they might see as issues requiring legislative intervention.
Difference between private and government Bills
- While both private members and ministers take part in the lawmaking process, Bills introduced by private members are referred to as private member’s Bills and those introduced by ministers are called government Bills.
- Government Bills are backed by the government and also reflect its legislative agenda.
- The admissibility of a Private Bill is decided by the Chairman in the case of the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker in the case of the Lok Sabha.
- Before the Bill can be listed for introduction, the Member must give at least a month’s notice, for the House Secretariat to examine it for compliance with constitutional provisions and rules on legislation.
- While a government Bill can be introduced and discussed on any day, a private member’s bill can only be introduced and discussed on Fridays.
Has a private member’s bill ever become a law?
- No private member’s Bill has been passed by Parliament since 1970.
- To date, Parliament has passed 14 such Bills, six of them in 1956.
- In the 14th Lok Sabha, of the over 300 private member’s Bills introduced, roughly four per cent were discussed, the remaining 96 per cent lapsed without a single dialogue.
- The selection of Bills for discussion is done through a ballot.
Back2Basics: Places of Worship Act, 1991
- It was passed in 1991 by the P V Narasimha Rao-led government.
- The law seeks to maintain the “religious character” of places of worship as it was in 1947 — except in the case of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, which was already in court.
- The law was brought in at the peak of the Ram Mandir movement, exactly a year before the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
- Introducing the law, then Home Minister S B Chavan said in Parliament that it was adopted to curb communal tension.
What are its provisions?
The objective of the law describes it as an Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship.
- It aims 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”.
- Sections 3 and 4 of the Act declared that the religious character of a place of worship shall continue to be the same as it was on August 15, 1947.
- No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.
- Section 4(2) says that all suits, appeals or others regarding converting the character of a place of worship, that was pending on August 15, 1947, will stand abated when the Act commences and no fresh proceedings can be filed.
- However, legal proceedings can be initiated after the commencement of the Act if the change of status took place after the cut-off date of August 15, 1947.
What does it say about Ayodhya, and what else is exempted?
- Act does not to apply to Ram Janma Bhumi Babri Masjid.
Besides the Ayodhya dispute, the Act also exempted:
- any place of worship that is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site, or is covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958;
- a suit that has been finally settled or disposed of;
- any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.
What has the Supreme Court said about the Act?
- In the 2019 Ayodhya verdict, the Constitution Bench led by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi referred to the law and said it manifests the secular values of the Constitution and strictly prohibits retrogression.
- In providing a guarantee for the preservation of the religious character of places, Parliament determined that independence from colonial rule furnishes a constitutional basis for healing the injustices of the past.
- The law addresses itself to the State as much as to every citizen of the nation. Its norms bind those who govern the affairs of the nation at every level.
- Those norms implement the Fundamental Duties under Article 51A and are hence positive mandates to every citizen as well.
Why is the law under challenge?
- A politician has challenged the law on the ground that violates secularism.
- He has also argued that the cut-off date of August 15, 1947, is “arbitrary, irrational and retrospective” and prohibits Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs from approaching courts to “reclaim” their places of worship.
- Such places, he argued, were “invaded” and “encroached” upon by “fundamentalist barbaric invaders”.
- The right-wing politicians have opposed the law even when it was introduced, arguing that the Centre has no power to legislate on “pilgrimages” or “burial grounds” which is under the state list.
- Another criticism against the law is that the cut-off is the date of Independence, which means that the status quo determined by a colonial power is considered final.