Varanasi Court Admits Hindu Plea to Pray in Historic Gyanvapi Mosque


Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali expressed concern over the fact that the Places of Worship Act 1991 was being set aside and such cases were being raised. Their legal team would study the verdict and act accordingly

VARANASI — The Varanasi court on Monday said that the Hindu petition for worship in Shringar Gauri was maintainable and the five Hindu women’s plea seeking right to worship in the Gyanvapi complex will be heard.

District judge A.K. Vishvesha dismissed the petition filed by the Muslim side citing the Places of Worship Act and questioning the maintainability of the petition.

Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, representing the Hindu side said, “The court rejected the Muslim side’s petition and said the suit is maintainable. The next hearing in the matter will be on September 22.”

“Muslim petitioners are likely to approach the Allahabad High Court in appeal,” petitioner Sohan Lal Arya said, but added that they will continue to contest the case.

Well known Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali said that their legal team would study the verdict and act accordingly.

He expressed concern over the fact that the Places of Worship Act 1991 was being set aside and such cases were being raised.

“We will fight the matter legally,” he added.

In May, the Supreme Court had assigned the case to the Varanasi district judge’s court, shifting it from a lower court where it was being heard till then.

The Supreme Court had ordered that “Keeping the complexity and sensitivity of the matter in view, the civil suit before the civil judge in Varanasi shall be heard before a senior and experienced judicial officer of the UP judicial service.”

A month before the Supreme Court’s intervention in the case, the Varanasi civil court had ordered the filming of the Gyanvapi mosque, based on the petition by the Hindu women who claimed that there are idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the Gyanvapi mosque complex.

A report of the filming at the mosque was then submitted to the Varanasi court in a sealed cover, but the Hindu petitioners controversially released details just hours later.

The report claimed a ‘Shivling’ had been found in a pond within the mosque complex used for ‘wuzu’ or purification rituals before Muslim prayers.

The judge hearing the case at the time had ordered the sealing of this pond.

This filming inside the centuries-old mosque was challenged in the Supreme Court by the Gyanvapi mosque committee.

The petitioners said the filming goes against the Places of Worship Act of 1991, which maintains the religious status of any place of worship as of August 15, 1947.

“Such petitions and sealing of mosques will lead to public mischief and communal disharmony, will affect mosques across the country,” the mosque committee had argued.

The mosque committee made similar arguments before the Varanasi district judge’s court in the ‘maintainability’ case, while lawyers for the Hindu petitioners claimed the law does not bar their case and that they could establish in court that the mosque premises was actually a temple as on the day of Independence.

Here is the timeline of the case:

1998: Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee approached the Allahabad High Court that the temple-mosque land dispute could not be decided by a civil court as it was not permissible by the law. The High Court granted stay to the proceedings for 22 years.

2019: The case was revived when a plea was filed on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar as the deity’s next friend in the Varanasi court demanding a survey by ASI in the disputed area.

2020: Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee opposed the petition seeking ASI survey of the entire Gyanvapi complex.

2020: The petitioner approached the lower court for the resumption of the hearing of the 1991 petition.

March 2021: The Places of Worship Act 1991 was taken up by a Supreme Court bench headed by then former Chief Justice S.A. Bobde. The petitioner was Ashwani Upadhyay.

August 2021: Five female Hindu devotees filed a petition in the Varanasi Court seeking to worship deities Hanuman, Nandi, and Shringar Gauri, inside the Gyanvapi complex.

September 2021: Allahabad High Court said that the court should wait for further judgement in the already proceeding cases of the matter.

April 2022: Based on the petition filed in August 2021, the Varanasi district court appointed a court commissioner and videography survey of the complex. Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee challenged it in the Allahabad High court, which upheld the lower court order. The Masjid Committee also filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court.

May 6, 2022: The videographic survey of the complex began.

May 12, 2022: The court appointed senior advocate Vishal Singh to supervise the survey. He was appointed as special court commissioner. The court directed them to report details of the survey by May 17.

May 14-19, 2022: The survey was resumed again and was conducted for two days. All the survey findings were submitted in a report to the court.

May 20, 2022: The case proceedings were transferred to a district judge by the Supreme Court.

May 26, 2022: The district court began hearing the maintainability petition of the case.

June 21, 2022: Varanasi civil judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar, who had ordered the video survey of Gyanvapi mosque, is transferred to Bareilly.

July 11, 2022: The Hindu petitioners in the Gyanvapi case decide to form a new trust, Shri AdiMahadev Kashi Dharmalaya Mukti Nyas.

July 18, 2022: The Supreme Court agreed to list a plea seeking ‘puja’, ‘darshan’, ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey and carbon dating by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) of the Shivling purportedly discovered in the Gyanvapi mosque’s ablution area during a court-ordered survey.

August 24, 2022: Varanasi Court reserved its order till September 12. The time was given to both parties to complete their arguments. — IANS


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