General Studies Paper 2 (Governance) (Indian Polity & Constitution)
Question:- 63. Recently, “The Places of Worship Act, 1991” has been challenged. In this light, explain the concept of colourable legislation. Discuss the issues associated with the Places of Worship Act, 1991. Suggest some measures that can be adopted to rectify the situation. Answer in 250 words.
Sep 12, 2022


The Places of Worship Act was passed to maintain the “religious character” of places of worship as they were in 1947. The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute was exempted from the Act.

Doctrine of Colorable Legislation is a gizmo used by the Supreme Court to interpret various Constitutional Provisions. The Doctrine of colorable legislation means “if the constitution of a state distributes the legislative powers in a specific legislative entry or if there are limitations on the legislative authority in the form or context of fundamental rights, questions may arise as to whether the legislature in a particular case has, in respect to the subject matter of the statute, exceeded or acted ultra vires in regard of the limits of the constitutional power or not.


Doctrine of Colorable Legislation is made through the concept of the Doctrine of Separation of PowerSeparation of Power directs that a balance of power is to be limited and defined between the different parts of the State i.e. between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The main Function of the legislature is to make laws. Whenever, Legislature tries to relocate this balance of power towards itself then the Doctrine of Colorable Legislation comes into effect to play and take care of Legislative Accountability.

Important case studies:

State of Bihar Vs. Kameshwar Singh
K.C. Gajapati Narayana Deo And Other v. The State OfOrissa
This Doctrine is also called as “Fraud on the Constitution”. 

BODY PARA-2 Provisions of the Act:

1. Sections 3: It says that no person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination into one of a different denomination or section.
2. Section 4(2): All cases for converting the character of a place of worship that were pending on August 15, 1947, will stand abated with the enforcement of this act. No fresh proceedings can be filed after that.
o However, legal proceedings can be initiated if the change of status of religious character of worship place, took place after the cut-off date of August 15, 1947.
3. Section 6: It prescribes three-year imprisonment and a fine for breach of the provisions of the act.



Section 5: It says that the Act shall not be applied to Ram Janma Bhumi Babri Masjid dispute. Other than that, the Act also exempts:
o Any place of worship, that is an ancient and historical monument or an archaeological site. It must be covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958;
o a suit that has been finally settled or disposed of;
o any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.

Supreme Court on the Act:

In the 2019 Ayodhya verdict, the Constitution Bench led by former Chief Justice of India has referred to the law and said it manifests the secular values of the Constitution and strictly prohibits retrogression.



The act violates secularism. It prohibits Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs from reclaiming their places of worship which were invaded and encroached upon by fundamentalist barbaric invaders.

The Centre has no power to legislate on “pilgrimages” or “burial grounds” which is under the state list.
o However, the government had said it could make use of its residuary power under Entry 97 of the Union List to enact this law. Entry 97 confers residuary powers to the Centre to legislate on subjects that are not enumerated in any of the three lists.
The cut-off date of the act is the date of Independence. It means that the status quo determined by a colonial power is considered final.


The exclusion of the Mathura and Varanasi disputes as being additional exceptions from the Act of 1991 is unacceptable.
The Act provides an exception to the “Ram-Janmbhoomimatter”. The need and importance of resolution of such a controversy.
The Supreme Court can increase the number of exceptions in Section 5 of the Places of Worship Act, 1991, to three.
Including, the Gyanvapi Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi and the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple in Mathura along with Ram-Janmbhoomi
It can be done through the use of the Supreme Court power under Article 142 of the Constitution.
Under Article 142, the Supreme court can pass any order to carry out for doing complete justice being in the public interest, while upholding the Constitution of India.