Supreme Court to await Varanasi judge’s decision in Gyanvapi case

Police personnel stand guard on the day of the hearing of the Gyanvapi Masjid-Shringar Gauri Temple case, outside the Varanasi District Court, on May 24.

Police personnel stand guard on the day of the hearing of the Gyanvapi Masjid-Shringar Gauri Temple case, outside the Varanasi District Court, on May 24. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on July 21 did not act on a plea made by caretakers of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi to first decide the correctness of a local court’s ex parte order to appoint an advocate commissioner, whose survey paved the way for the reported finding of a shivlingand sealing of a part of the mosque premises.

A Special Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud instead chose to wait for the decision of the Varanasi District Judge on an application filed by the caretakers, Anjuman Intejamia Masjid, challenging the very maintainability of a civil suit filed by several Hindu women for declaration of their right to worship Maa Shringar Gauri and other “visible and invisible deities" within the mosque premises. It was this suit that had initially triggered a series of orders by a Civil Judge, including the inspection of the mosque premises.

The Bench said in case the District Judge rules in favour of the Anjuman, the civil suit of the Hindu women would itself “fall”, leaving the advocate commissioner’s work redundant. On the other hand, if the District Court upholds the suit, the caretakers could pursue other remedies in law.

‘Domino effect’

During the hearing, Anjuman’s lawyer, senior advocate Huzefa Ahamadi indicated there were several other cases pending in various courts across the country involving religious places of worship. Advocate commissioners could be appointed in these cases in the same way it was done in the Gyanvapi case. The Supreme Court ought to step in to prevent such a “domino effect”.

“I am not concerned only about this case. I am concerned about other cases as well. My Lords will have to go into the correctness of the order appointing the advocate commissioner. In a case like this, sensitivities are involved, particular places of worship are involved… Commissions are appointed and reports are created to change perceptions and alter the status quo… You have to examine the correctness of the order appointing the commissioner in this case. All the rest that happened on the ground is like fruit from a poison tree,” Mr. Ahamadi submitted.

The civil judge had appointed the advocate commissioner in April without hearing the caretakers. The Allahabad High Court had subsequently dismissed their apprehensions about the fallout of the survey. The following days had witnessed the discovery of the shivling and cordoning off of the premises where it was said to have been found. In May, the Supreme Court protected the area around the shivling though Muslims were allowed access to the mosque to offer namaaz. The apex court had transferred the civil suit proceedings from the civil court to the District Judge, saying the case required a “seasoned hand”.

‘Status quo altered’

Recounting how the High Court had rejected their fears, Mr. Ahamadi said “my apprehensions before the High Court were wished away by the judge who said the order for the survey was innocuous… But see what it has resulted in… It has altered the status quo that has been in existence for hundreds of years… please allow me to make my case against the appointment of the advocate commissioner”.

But the apex court indicated that the caretakers’ remedy lay in the District Court.

The Special Bench said the Anjuman could raise its objections about the appointment in the District Court proceedings. The advocate commissioner’s report was also available to them.

“When your objections to the report of the commissioner are considered [by the District Court], if that occasion arises, then all your objections are kept open, including the ones you have raised before us,” Justice Chandrachud addressed Mr. Ahmadi.

The Bench posted the case next in the first week of October.

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Printable version | Jul 22, 2022 12:08:00 am |