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Facilities arranged for ritual before namaz at Gyanvapi on Eid, Supreme Court told

By, New Delhi
Apr 22, 2023 04:00 AM IST

The bench said that the Varanasi district administration will provide water facilities to the devotees performing 'wuzu' (ablution) in Gyanvapi mosque.

The Supreme Court on Friday recorded a statement by the Varanasi district collector that suitable arrangement of water has been made in Gyanvapi mosque for wuzu (ablution) for Ramzan and Eid prayers even as the local administration refused to provide a mobile toilet near the section in the mosque complex where a Shivling was said to have been found during a survey last year, citing a possible law-and-order issue.

The Supreme Court is currently seized of a petition filed by the Gyanvapi mosque committee (PTI)

A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud disposed of the plea by the mosque management committee after taking on record the district collector’s statement. “The district collector says that there are sufficient number of tubs in proximity so as to ensure there is no inconvenience to devotees who will come for performing namaz,” recorded the bench, which also included justice PS Narasimha, in its order.

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During the brief hearing, solicitor general (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, informed the bench that six tubs have been provided for the supply of water for wuzu but the local administration was not agreeable to providing a mobile toilet inside the complex.

“We agreed for a mobile toilet 70m away from the premises, but they wanted it inside the premises. That’s not possible. It will create a law-and-order problem...the Shivling or what they call as fountain, is in close proximity. And that section has been directed to be protected by this court,” the SG said.

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Senior counsel Huzefa Ahmedi, representing the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee which manages the Gyanvapi mosque, disagreed with Mehta. “Why should I be forced to go outside my own premises?” he asked. Ahmedi added that the committee had rushed to the court because of Ramzan and Eid, which is going to be celebrated tomorrow.

At this point, the bench asked the SG if an arrangement for adequate water can be made without delay. Responding, Mehta said that the district collector has already agreed to provide six tubs for water for wuzu.

The court then proceeded to record Mehta’s statement and dispose of the committee’s plea.

On Monday, the bench directed the district collector to convene a meeting on April 18 for working out a “congenial arrangement” for arrangement for wuzu during Ramzan prayers in the mosque precincts.

The top court is currently seized of a petition filed by the mosque committee in May, opposing the suit of five Hindu women who demanded an unhindered right to worship Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal, a shrine for goddess Parvati purportedly located behind the western wall of the mosque complex.

The committee claims the suit is barred by the provisions of the Places of Worship Act, 1991, which locks the position or “religious identity” of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947. The committee had appealed against the April 2022 order of the Allahabad high court allowing the survey.

By an order in May 2022, the top court protected the area where the Shivling was said to have been found after a Varanasi civil court allowed a video survey of the mosque complex adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The Hindu petitioners claimed the Shivling was found close to the wuzukhana, a small reservoir used by Muslim worshippers to perform ritual ablutions before offering namaz.

At the same time, the top court in last May allowed offering of namaz inside the mosque complex and directed the local administration to ensure proper arrangements for wuzu.

By its May 2022 order, the Supreme Court also transferred the suit filed by the Hindu women from the Varanasi civil judge to the district judge for deciding the mosque committee’s objections against the inquiry. It asked the district judge to first decide on the maintainability of the suit. Ascertainment of the religious character of a place may not be barred by the 1991 Act, the court observed on that day, as it refrained from interfering with the Gyanvapi mosque survey.

The Varanasi district judge rejected the mosque committee’s objections to maintainability on September 12, 2022, and decided to proceed with the suit. The committee has challenged this order before the Allahabad high court, which is yet to rule on the appeal.

On April 17, a Varanasi district judge ordered consolidation of seven other cases related to the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri issue from various courts to his court.

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