The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the civil court in Varanasi to not proceed with hearing the Gyanvapi case till it takes up the matter on Friday.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and PS Narashima was informed by advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain that lead counsel Hari Shankar Jain for the Hindu devotees in the civil suit is indisposed for Thursday, as he was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday.
“We accordingly direct the Trial Court to strictly act in terms of the above arrangement and to desist from taking up further proceedings in the suit in view of the consensus which has been arrived at between the parties,” the bench said in its order.
The bench directed for the listing of the matter before it on May 20 at 3 pm and said that the Registry may seek the administrative directions of the Chief Justice of India so that the Bench may be constituted.
At the outset, advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain mentioned the matter and urged the court to take up the matter for a hearing on Friday.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, said several applications have been filed across the country to "seal" various mosques, and in the Gyanvapi case in Varanasi, the hearing is going on and an application has been filed to "demolish" a wall around the ‘wazukhana' (ablution room).
Ahmadi said he cannot oppose adjournment on the grounds of the health of a counsel but an undertaking should be given that Hindu devotees will not proceed with the civil court proceedings.
He said that it is necessary that the Trial Court which is continuing to hear the proceedings today may desist from doing so until this Court takes up the proceedings on Friday.
Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain said they are assuring the bench that the Hindu parties would not proceed with the hearing before the civil court at Varanasi and would not press any further until the Court takes up the matter on Friday.
The bench noted in its order that the proceedings have been mentioned by advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, who appears on behalf of the original plaintiffs, namely, the first to fifth respondents (female Hindu devotees who have filed the suit) in the proceedings before this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.
On May 17, the top court had directed the district magistrate of Varanasi to ensure the protection of an area inside the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex where a 'Shivling' is said to have been found during a survey and allowed Muslims to offer ‘namaz' and perform “religious observances”.
“Balancing the equity”, the top court had while hearing a plea of the Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masjid which manages Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, passed the order and refused to stay the ongoing proceedings before the lower court.
It had said it needs to balance the rights of contesting parties and clarified that the order of the civil judge (senior division), hearing the plea of petitioner Hindu devotees, directing authorities to ensure the protection of the area would not restrict and impede the rights of Muslim to offer Namaz and to perform religious observances.
“This is an interim arrangement till counsel for the plaintiff is here. We need to balance the rights of contesting parties. The order of May 16, 2022, to the extent that DM, Varanasi shall ensure the protection of area where ‘Shivling' is said to be found will not impede upon the rights of the Muslims to offer ‘Namaz' and perform religious observances”, the bench had said in its order passed on Wednesday.
The apex court order had come after it was informed by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, that the plaintiff's lawyer Hari Shankar Jain had suffered some cardiac issues and was hospitalized in Varanasi.
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.
On May 17, the Varanasi civil court, which had ordered the videography survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex, removed Advocate Commissioner Ajay Mishra for displaying "irresponsible behaviour towards the discharge of his duties" and granted time till today to the commission to file the survey report.
The removal order by District Civil Judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar had come on an application moved by Special Advocate Commissioner Vishal Singh who informed the court that Mishra had "deployed a personal cameraman RP Singh who was giving the wrong byte in the media on a regular basis".
The civil court is hearing a suit 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 video graphics survey of the mosque was ordered on April 18, 2021, by the civil judge (senior division) Varanasi 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.