Gyanvapi: Court must follow law not faith

News: Recently, The Supreme Court has admitted petitions on the Gyanvapi mosque. At present, a controversy is raging over the Gyanvapi Mosque, which is a legacy of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1618-1707).

Nature of Indian Polity

India’s Constitution guarantees the principle of religious equality and protection of minority rights. As per B.R. Ambedkar, these principles will come to safeguard the interests of minorities in case India becomes a Hindu-majority independent India.

In India, the parliamentary system has been adopted. The popular will is represented by the legislature. However, the Constitution also provides some checks on the power of legislatures and the executives.

The Judiciary has an important role for safeguarding the Constitution. If elections give way to majoritarian passions, and can’t protect the minorities, the courts, following the Constitution, will.

Argument Against ongoing developments in the Gyanvapi Mosque Case

The atrocities of Aurangzeb were not limited to destruction of the Hindu temples. He also targeted Sikh gurus, destroyed mosques built by adversaries, killed his own brother Dara Shikoh and incarcerated his father Shahjehan.

Should Aurangzeb’s 17th century misdeeds be avenged by inflicting harm on India’s Muslims today.

At present, the attempts to reclaim the mosque for Hindu religious purposes contradicts the Constitution.

What are the challenges at present?

At present, we live in a modern democracy that is based on the key foundations of popular will and constitutional settlement.

At present, India’s elections or popular will has been increasingly legitimating Hindu nationalism. For example, India’s parliament has enacted majoritarian laws such as the abrogation of Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA); multiple state-level laws and/or executive decrees are banning beef-eating and inter-faith marriage, among various other measures.

The Indian Judiciary has also not been successful in implementing its constitution-protecting role. For example, it has not scheduled hearings of Hindu nationalist policies or legislation like Article 370 and the CAA; and It has even approved conversion of a contested site in Ayodhya into a Hindu temple.

Way Forward

The Places of Worship Act, 1991, made in accordance with the Constitution, clearly says that the status of a religious place cannot be altered beyond what it was at Independence.

The religious equality and minority protections, two of the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution should be safeguarded. Therefore, Judicial interpretation must follow the law, not faith.

Source: The post is based on an article “Gyanvapi: Court must follow law not faith” published in the Indian Express on 24th May 2022.

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