The Supreme Court on Friday declined to immediately stop the survey of Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, located next to Kashi Vishwanath temple and said that the matter would have to be considered in due course. The apex court agreed to consider listing the plea of a Muslim party against the survey of the Gyanvapi premises.
A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and justices JK Maheswari and Hima Kohli was told by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the Muslim side in the Gyanvapi mosque case, that a plea has been filed against the survey being conducted at the Varanasi site. Let me see, the CJI said on urgent listing of the plea.
“A survey has been directed in relation to the Varanasi property. This is covered under the Places of Worship Act. Now, the court has ordered a court commissioner to conduct a survey. This has been a mosque since time immemorial,” Ahmadi said.
This (Gyanvapi) has been a mosque since time immemorial and this is clearly interdicted by the Places of Worship Act, Ahmadi said. He said the direction to conduct a survey has been passed and an order of status quo be passed at the moment.
The CJI, however, said, “I do not know anything. How can I pass such an order? I will read. Let me see.”
The Muslim side has been referring to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and its section 4 which bars filing of any suit or initiating any other legal proceeding for a conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, as existing on August 15, 1947. A Varanasi local court on Thursday rejected a plea to replace the advocate commissioner it had appointed for conducting a videography survey of the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex here and ordered the completion of the task by May 17.
The district court also appointed two more lawyers to help the advocate commissioner carry out the survey at the mosque, which is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple. It ordered the police to register FIRs if there are attempts to scuttle the exercise. The local court’s May 12 order came on a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily worship of Hindu deities whose idols are located on an outer wall of the mosque.
The mosque management committee had opposed filming inside the mosque and also accused the court-appointed commissioner of partiality. Amid the opposition, the survey was stalled for a while. The court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar also dismissed objections to the opening of the two closed basements in the mosque complex for the survey, according to the counsel representing Hindu petitioners. The court has also directed the district magistrate and the police commissioner to monitor the exercise and lodge an FIR if anyone created hurdles in the survey.
It said the survey could be done in the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex between 8 am and 12 pm daily till its completion. The survey report should be submitted by Tuesday. The videographic survey of the mosque was ordered on April 18, 2021 by Judge Diwakar following the plea by Delhi residents Rakhi Singh, Laxmi Devi, Sita Sahu and others.
The original suit was filed in 1991 in the Varanasi district court for the restoration of the ancient temple at the site where the Gyanvapi mosque currently stands. The plea has been taken in the suit that the said mosque is a part of the temple.
Varanasi’s fast track court headed by a civil judge (senior division) had on April 8, 2021 directed the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct a survey of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex and ascertain if a temple was demolished to build the mosque that stands adjacent to the temple. The Allahabad High Court, however, stayed the Varanasi court’s order dated April 8, 2021. The high court stayed the Varanasi court order on petitions by Anjuman Intazamia Masjid and the Sunni Central Waqf Board.