History must be accepted as a whole; temple restoration plea in Qutub Minar complex rejected

The civil court in Delhi rejected the petition while holding that Qutub Minar was a protected monument and its character cannot be changed

Delhi Court
Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

A Delhi court dismissed the civil suit filed by ‘deities’ and some lawyers seeking declaration of the Qutub Minar complex as a temple complex, while pointing to history. Civil Judge, Neha Sharma of Saket Court, held, “Nobody has denied that wrongs were committed in the past but such wrongs cannot be the basis for disturbing peace of our present and future.” While dismissing the plain, she held that ‘public order’ was an exception to Articles 25 and 26 off the Constitution, and hence the nature of the protected monument of ‘Qutub Minar’ needed to be protected to maintain status quo instead of changing it into a religious character.

The plaintiffs in the case were tirthankara Lord Rishab Dev, Lord Vishnu as principal deity and two lawyers namely Ranjana Agnihotri and Harishankar Jain and one Jitender Singh. In this civil suit they contended that huge temple complex known as Quwwat Ul Islam was declared as a protected monument under section 3 of the Ancient Monuments Preservations Act 1904 vide notification no. DL, 387 EDU dated January 16, 1914.

Going into history

As per the plaintiffs, Delhi was ruled by celebrated Hindu Kings upto 1192 when Mohammed Gauri invaded and defeated King Prithviraj Chauhan in the battle whereafter Qutubdin Aibak a commander of Mohammed Gauri dismantled/ destroyed Shree Vishnu Hari temple and 27 Jain and Hindu temples and renamed the complex as Quwwat Ul Islam mosque. It was contended that partial demolition was carried out and on the walls, pillars and roof of the existing building the images of Gods and Goddess including other religious/ pious Hindu symbols are still present.

Since these hindu symbols etc are still present, the Mosque was abandoned and never used. “Naturally, the only purpose was to demoralise Hindu and Jain devotees and subjects residing there to feel that they had been crushed by the Islamic forces,” the plaintiffs stated.

Inspired by Ayodhya judgement

The plaintiffs stated that after the Ayodhya judgement of November 9, 2019, they, along with several other devotees visited Qutub Minar and purchased book from the book sale counter and also studied a number of historical books, literary works and available materials regarding its history after which it became clear to them that a number of temples with deities were existing within the temple complex.

“It is submitted that our constitution is transformative in nature and we, the citizens of India are not supposed to carry on the shameful and black spot of history on our head in the change of the circumstances with the change of the sovereign of the State,” said the petitioners.

Court’s observations

The court retained that Order VII Rule 11 Civil Procedure Code (CPC) does not limit the power of the court to examine whether the plaint discloses any cause of action or not. The court stated that since in a suit for declaration, any person entitled to any legal character or to any right as to any property may institute suit against any person denying or interested to deny his title may make a declaration that he is so entitled, it is firstly required to be tested if plaintiffs are entitled to any legal character or to any right which they can enforce by way of relief of declaration.

The court held that the plaintiffs’ argument that right to worship has been bestowed under Article 25 and 26 as a fundamental right was devoid of merit as such these rights are not absolute and hence, they have to be exercised subject to just exceptions created.

While the court held that it is an admitted fact that the suit property is a mosque built over temples and is not being used for any religious purpose, it stated that plaintiffs do not have an absolute right to restoration and worship in the suit property. The court observed that ‘public order’ is an exception to Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and status quo needs to be maintained. Thus, a protected monument should not be used for religious purposes.

The plaintiffs had contended that section 4(3)(a) of the Places of Worship Act, 1991 excludes an ancient and historical monument, hence this suit is not barred by it but the court held that this contention frustrates the purpose of the Act itself. The object of the Act is 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 August 15, 1947.

Court’s findings

The court held that such ancient and historical monument cannot be used for some purpose which runs counter to its nature as a religious place of worship, but it can always be used for some other purpose which is not inconsistent with its religious character. The court said:

“Hence, in my considered opinion, once a monument has been declared to be a protected monument and is owned by the Government, then the plaintiffs cannot insist that the place of worship must actually and actively be used for religious services.”

About accepting history, the court made some important observations:

“Our country had a rich history and has seen challenging times. Nevertheless, history has to be accepted as a whole. Can the good be retained and bad be deleted from our history? Thus, harmonious interpretation of both the statutes is required to give full force to the objective behind the Places of Worship Act, 1991.”

The court pointed out that when the government of India acquired ownership of the area, on the date of acquisition of the area, nobody was representing the temples and deities and no opportunity was granted to them as required under section 10 of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act.

The court also stated there is presumption of correctness in every official act and thus the notification of 1914 which has not been challenged till date, not even by the plaintiffs here, stands valid and the plaintiffs have no right to claim restoration and right to religious worship.

“Nobody has denied that wrongs were committed in the past but such wrongs cannot be the basis for disturbing peace of our present and future,” the court said. The court also cited the Ayodhya judgement whereby it was held, “Cognizant as we are of our history and of the need for the nation to confront it, Independence was a watershed moment to heal the wounds of the past. Historical wrongs cannot be remedied by the people taking the law in their own hands. In preserving the character of places of public worship, Parliament has mandated in no uncertain terms that history and its wrongs shall not be used as instruments to oppress the present and the future.”

The court thus rejected the plaint under Order 7 Rule 11(a) of Civil Procedure Code for nondisclosure of cause of action.

The complete order may be read here:


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