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SC to hear Gyanvapi mosque's plea over temple suits

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 01, 2024 15:29 IST
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The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear an appeal of the Gyanvapi management committee against an Allahabad high court order which held that lawsuits for "restoration" of a temple, which was claimed to have stood where the mosque stands in Varanasi, are maintainable.

"We will tag this with the main case," a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said.

The petition was filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, the committee which manages the affairs of the Gyanvapi mosque.


On December 19 last year, the Allahabad high court had dismissed pleas challenging the maintainability of a 1991 suit seeking "restoration" of a temple at the site where the Gyanvapi mosque stands.

The HC had said the "religious character" of a disputed place can only be decided by the court.

It had dismissed five related petitions on maintainability and against a survey of the mosque premises filed over the years by the mosque management committee and the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board.

The HC had held that the suit filed before the district court by Hindus is not barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which forbids "conversion" of the "religious character" of a place from what existed on August 15, 1947.

The suit was filed seeking the right to worship in the Gyanvapi mosque adjoining the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Muslim litigants had challenged its maintainability, citing the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act.

On December 8 last year, the high court had reserved its judgment on all five petitions challenging the maintainability of the suit pending before the Varanasi court. 

While upholding the maintainability of lawsuit, the high court had ordered speedy trial in the 32-year-old Gyanvapi dispute case.

It had said the 1991 law on places of worship did not define ”religious character” which can only be determined through evidence presented in court by the opposing parties.

”Either the Gyanvapi compound has a Hindu religious character or a Muslim religious character. It can't have dual character at the same time,” the HC had said.

”In the national interest, it is required that the suit must proceed expeditiously and be decided with utmost urgency with the cooperation of both the contesting parties without resorting to any dilatory tactics,” the high court had said, cautioning against any ”unnecessary adjournment” in the lower court.

The Supreme Court earlier gave the go-ahead for a survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises by the Archaeological Survey of India and the high court allowed a survey of the Shahi Idgah mosque that adjoins the Krishna Janmasthan temple in Mathura.

Hindu litigants say the two mosques were built during the Mughal rule after  demolition, or partial demolition, of temples, and the surveys would throw up evidence proving this.

The high court took note of the ASI survey conducted at the Gyanvapi masjid on the directions of the trial court which is hearing the petition of a group of women seeking regular access to Hindu deities depicted on the mosque's rear wall.

If required, the lower court may direct ASI for a further survey, the HC had added. 

The high court, on February 26, decided another petition challenging the permission granted to the Hindu side to offer prayers in the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi mosque.  It said Hindu prayers will continue in the southern cellar of the mosque and dismissed a plea that challenged the district court's order to this effect.

The high court observed that the Uttar Pradesh government's 1993 action of stopping rituals inside "Vyas Tehkhana" in the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi mosque was "illegal". It said the rituals were stopped by "illegal action of state without there being any order in writing".

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