Plea for dismissal of Hindu petitioners’ suit for worship at Gyanvapi to be heard today

Updated on May 26, 2022 12:13 PM IST

The Supreme Court has sought a decision on priority over an application against the maintainability of the suit

The Gyanvapi Mosque. (PTI)
The Gyanvapi Mosque. (PTI)

Varanasi: Varanasi’s district court will on Thursday examine the Gyanvapi Masjid management committee’s plea seeking dismissal of Hindu petitioners’ suit for unhindered right to worship in the mosque complex.

In an order on Tuesday, the court said it will follow the course the Supreme Court dictated in its May 20 directive. The apex court ordered that a decision be made on priority over the committee’s application against the maintainability of the suit. The Hindu side’s plea related to a controversial survey of the complex will be heard later.

The proceedings on Thursday will decide whether the suit, which led to the survey, could be entertained at all, and if the 1991 Places of Worship Act bars attempt to renew demands by a group for ascertaining religious character of a place all over again — an argument that forms the edifice of the argument of the committee.

This will also mean that the court will take a call on the 1991 legislation, which locks the position or “religious identity” of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947, a decision that may have ramifications for other similar disputes.

In its order on Tuesday, the district judge permitted the limited plea of the Hindu petitioners to invite objections and comments to the advocate commissioner’s report on the survey.

During the survey Hindu petitioners claimed a “Shivling” was found on the premises, prompting Varanasi’s civil court to order protection. Leaked details of the survey report, which was submitted to the court last week, said signs of Hindu relics and motifs were also found inside the premises.

The lawyers, who appeared in the matter before the Varanasi court on Tuesday, said the district judge orally directed during the proceedings the survey report will be shared with both sides to enable them to file their comments within seven days.

The Supreme Court on Friday last refrained from interfering with the survey, but transferred the suit from the Varanasi civil judge to the district judge for deciding the mosque management committee’s objections against the inquiry. It noted the “complexities and sensitivities involved in the matter” will require a “more senior and experienced hand”.

The top court asked the district judge to decide all relevant issues raised by the two sides. It said the district judge shall decide on priority the application of the committee, which claims that the case of the Hindu petitioners is barred by the Places of Worship Act.

The Supreme Court clarified its May 17 order on protecting a section of the masjid complex where a “Shivling” was ostensibly found shall continue. It directed Muslims will have the right to offer namaz in the mosque without any hindrance. The top court asked the Varanasi district magistrate to ensure arrangements for ablution for Muslims, but did not entertain a plea of the committee to allow it to use the pond or the tap located close to the protected site.

The Supreme Court adjourned the case to the third week of July. It said its May 17 order will remain operational until the district judge’s decision on the maintainability of the suit, and for a further period of eight weeks so that parties aggrieved could challenge it in appeal.

The apex court observed that ascertainment of the religious character of a place may not be barred by the Places of Worship Act, 1991.

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