Varanasi court to hear masjid panel plea in Gyanvapi case

Asks parties to file objections to panel’s report within 7 days

May 24, 2022 06:35 pm | Updated 11:08 pm IST - Varanasi:

Security personnel stand guard as Muslims arrive in a large number at the Gyanvapi mosque to offer Friday prayers, in Varanasi on May 20, 2022.

Security personnel stand guard as Muslims arrive in a large number at the Gyanvapi mosque to offer Friday prayers, in Varanasi on May 20, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Varanasi district court, hearing the Gyanvapi mosque dispute, on Tuesday decided that it will hear on priority the plea filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which challenged the maintainability of the suit filed by Hindu plaintiffs under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

District and Sessions Judge, Varanasi, A.K. Vishvesha said he would hear the committee’s plea on May 26 on priority as directed by the Supreme Court. Further, the Varanasi court directed all parties to file their objections to the report of the commission that conducted a video survey of the mosque premises within seven days, as ordered by the court earlier hearing the case.

Mr. Vishvesha on Monday reserved the order on which plea to hear first, after hearing arguments from both sides.

On Monday, the masjid committee argued that its plea challenging the maintainability of the Hindus’ suit should be first heard and in isolation from their suit. It argued that the suit was barred under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and thus was not maintainable.

Opposing this stance, the Hindu plaintiffs had argued that the two should be heard together along with the report of the commission that conducted the survey and the objections to it.

Significantly, the report of this commission is not yet in the public domain, despite which videos alleged to be part of the survey were leaked. Following this, the Hindu side claimed the discovery of a Shivling while the Muslim side disputed this claim, saying the structure was part of a fountain inside the mosque’s wuzu khana.

Moved to district court

The original civil suit, filed by five Hindu women, seeking to worship at a Hindu shrine behind the western wall of the Gyanvapi mosque all year round, was last week transferred to a district court by the Supreme Court.

The matter reached the Supreme Court when the civil judge initially hearing the matter directed that the place, where the disputed structure was found, be sealed. These directions came based on an advocate’s submission before the survey report was even submitted in court.

This prompted the masjid committee to go to the top court, with a plea challenging the survey ordered by the civil judge.

While hearing the matter, the Supreme Court had clarified that the civil judge’s order to “protect” the place where the disputed structure was found should not in any way restrict Muslims from offering prayers there.

Hindu Sena intervenes

Meanwhile, Hindu Sena national president Vishnu Gupta on Tuesday filed an application in the Varanasi district court, seeking that he too be impleaded as a plaintiff in the matters pending before it with respect to the Gyanvapi mosque dispute.

Watch | Delhi’s historic mosques and their fountain connection

Mr. Gupta, through his application under Order 1 Rule 10(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, argued that as a representative of the Hindu Sena, a follower of Sanatan Dharma, and a devotee of Lord Shiva, he should be impleaded in the proceedings.

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