The Allahabad High Court on May 31 dismissed the plea moved by the Anjuman Intazamia Mosque Committee, which manages the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, challenging the maintainability of a suit filed by women worshippers in the district court, seeking the right to worship Hindu deities inside the mosque premises. Thus, the High Court upheld the Varanasi court’s order, holding the suit to be maintainable.
The High Court Bench of Justice J.J. Munir announced the order, which has been reserved since last December. The detailed order in the matter is still awaited.
Right to worship
In August 2021, Rakshi Singh and four other Hindu women moved the Varanasi civil court, seeking the right to worship Hindu deities within the Gyanvapi mosque premises all through the year. In their claim, the plaintiffs had said that the Gyanvyapi mosque and its premises was once a Hindu temple. They claimed that Mughal ruler Aurangzeb had demolished the temple and built the mosque above it.
The maintainability of their suit was challenged in April 2022 by the Anjuman Committee, which filed an application under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure arguing that the Hindu worshippers’ suit was barred by law, referring to the Places of Worship Act, 1991.
‘Hindu worship continued after 1947’
After a Supreme Court order, the matter was transferred to the Varanasi district court, which dismissed the mosque committee’s plea in September 2022. District judge A.K. Vishvesha had ruled that neither the Places of Worship Act, 1991, nor the Waqf Act, 1995, nor the U.P. Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983 prevented the suit from being heard. He said that the “plaintiffs will have right to prove their averments by cogent evidence”.
Rejecting the objection to the suit, the Varanasi court had specifically held that since the Hindu worshippers claim that the Hindu deities were being worshipped by them inside the masjid complex even after August 15, 1947 — which is the cut-off date provided under the Places of Worship Act — the 1991 act would not be applicable in this case.
The mosque committee had then appealed the district court’s order in the High Court in October 2022.