Suit filed by Hindus in Gyanvapi case maintainable, says Varanasi court

Court says religious character of site as on Aug 15, 1947 ‘doubtful’, suit not barred by Places of Worship Act

November 17, 2022 05:40 pm | Updated November 18, 2022 08:28 am IST

The Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi. File

The Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi. File | Photo Credit: PTI

A Varanasi fast-track court on Thursday ruled that a suit filed by Hindu plaintiffs seeking possession of the Gyanvapi mosque premises, worshipping rights and a bar on Muslims from entering the area is maintainable, thereby dismissing the application under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee. The court has listed the suit for further proceedings on December 2.

In its order, Civil Judge (senior division) Mahendra Kumar Pandey’s fast-track court thus rejected the Masjid panel’s arguments that the suit was barred under The Waqf Act, 1995 and The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and other special laws. 

The suit was filed by Kiran Singh, international general secretary of the Vishwa Vedic Sanatan Sangh, as the next friend of deity Lord Visheshwar Virajman, seeking that the property in question be declared as that of the deity. The application also sought that the structure currently standing there -- that is, the mosque -- be removed, and that Hindus get unfettered rights to enter the premises and worship their visible and invisible deities, including the alleged “shivling” found there in May this year, without any interference. The application also sought a permanent prohibitory injunction against the Masjid panel, its members, agents, and anyone acting under them from entering the premises and interfering with Hindu worship activities. 

The prayers, in essence, sought the razing of the mosque structure and a bar on Muslims from entering the premises. 

The Civil Judge’s order comes a week after the Supreme Court extended interim orders that directed that no Muslims should be barred from offering prayers at the Gyanvapi mosque and that the area under dispute should be protected until further orders. 

In his November 17 order, Civil Judge Mahendra Kumar Pandey held that the law on Order 7, Rule 11 was clear that only the averments made in the plaint have to be considered at face value and as a whole to locate a cause of action and “the defendant’s case cannot be taken into consideration at this stage”, paving the way for the suit to be tried.  

The court also ruled that The Waqf Act, 1995 does not bar the instant suit because the issue of how and when the disputed property was dedicated as Waqf property is “the total subject of evidence”, which can be examined only when the suit is allowed to be tried, thus establishing the right of the plaintiffs to prove their averments during trial of the suit. 

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Further, as for the alleged bar on the suit as per the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, the court held, “It is doubtful that what was the religious character of the disputed place existing on 15th August 1947.” The plaintiffs have submitted that the mosque was built upon the “core structure” of the temple that predated it. Whereas, the Masjid panel has submitted that the entire temple was demolished and a mosque built there 600 years ago, since when Muslims have been praying at the site. 

Noting this, the court remarked that it would be very difficult to determine the reality at this stage and that “it cannot be determined without substantial evidence”, for which the suit must be tried. “It is the legal right of every party to prove their case with the help of best evidences available to them,” the court held. 

In addition to this, the court also ruled that neither the Uttar Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983, the Indian Limitation Act, 1963, nor the judicial precedent set in the Deen Mohammad case bar the suit from being tried.    

Now, the court is set to take up the suit for framing issues on the next date of hearing, when written statements will also be called for. 

This suit is different from the one filed by five Hindu women seeking the right to pray to certain deities, visible and invisible, within the premises, which is currently being heard by the district court in Varanasi. That suit was also ruled maintainable by the court but this has been challenged by the Masjid panel before the Allahabad High Court. 

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