Supreme Court refuses to intervene in Ganga-Kashi Vishwanath pathway project
The Supreme Court refused to intervene in the Ganga-Kashi Vishwanath pathway project and has asked petitioners who approached it with a plea to stay the on-going work on the project to not take any steps that would disrupt peace in the ancient city.
The project involves building a broad tree-lined pathway from the river to the temple complex. The temple complex also includes a mosque and the fear in some quarters is that the demolition of properties around the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyan Vapi mosque complex is a precursor to an attempt to take over the mosque.
The petitioners — Jitendra Nath Vyas (who has rights to worship in the temple) and Moulana Abdul Batin Nomani of Gyan Vapi mosque — approached the top court against the district administration’s move to pull down the boundary wall between the two structures on October 25, claiming this would have far-reaching “adverse consequences for peace, harmony and tranquility existing between the two communities for decades.”
The two religious shrines stand next to each other inside the Gyan Vapi compound and the respective sides have entered into various agreements and memorandum of understandings (MoUs) for the maintenance and upkeep of the complex, the petitioners told the top court.
However, a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Vineet Sharan found no merit in the petition and said it was based on their apprehension. “For the last 30 years it (Varanasi) has been a peaceful place. Do not disturb it with this kind of litigation. This may cause more sensation than peace. Notice on such matters could sensationalise the issue.”
Counsel for the petitioners, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, attempted to impress upon the court and said the demolition of houses around the temple complex is being done in the garb of modernisation. “I am not putting it on alarmist footing. The two communities have come together only asking that we be told what is the plan for securing this premises (Gyan Vapi compound) because two premises would be vulnerable and insecure if, apart from the five gates, any other access opens.”
Justice Mishra responded by commenting that the mosque is “ protected by 20-feet high iron girders” and also a huge security “force”. He was also critical at the role of the petitioner, Vyas. Justice Vineet Sharan told Ramachandra that if the petitioners were keen to see the plan for the project, they could approach the authorities.
“They will never touch it (the mosque),” Justice Mishra added, giving liberty to the petitioners to approach the court again if they have any such concerns
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta also sought to dispel the apprehensions. “Varanasi is the oldest city in the world. We are not acquiring houses but purchasing them at the double the price to construct a corridor, which is in larger public interest.”
The law officer said the authorities were willing to share the development plan with the petitioners, as and when it is ready. Varanasi is the parliemantery constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The petitioners termed the demolition of “age-old boundary wall” as illegal.
“Breaching the protected boundary wall raises serious apprehensions with regard to the entire Gyan Vapi Area. Immediate attention is required due to the grave security threats raised in light of the constant destruction and construction being carried out without consent. It also infringes on the customary and religious rights of both Hindus and Muslims,” read the petition filed by advocate Fuzail Ayyubi.