Split among Gyanvapi Hindu plaintiffs may spread to other cases too

Hari Shankar Jain calls it ‘betrayal’ but says he continues to represent the other four plaintiffs

June 01, 2022 10:32 pm | Updated 11:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Advocates representing Hindu organisations leave the court after a hearing on the Gyanvapi mosque case in Varanasi on May 26, 2022.

Advocates representing Hindu organisations leave the court after a hearing on the Gyanvapi mosque case in Varanasi on May 26, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The split that appeared among the Hindu plaintiffs in the Gyanvapi Mosque-Kashi Vishwanath Temple dispute, is now set to grow and spill over to other similar cases in Mathura and the suit related to the Qutub Minar complex in New Delhi.

On Tuesday, one of the five plaintiffs in the Gyanvapi dispute, Rakhi Singh, announced that she would no longer be engaging the services of Advocate Hari Shankar Jain and his team in their case. The announcement came from one Jitendra Singh Visen, who claimed to be Ms. Rakhi's uncle, holding the power of attorney to represent her in court.

Significantly, Mr. Singh is also the chief of the Vishwa Vedic Sanatan Sangh (VVSS) and has been closely associated with Mr. Jains' team.

However, after Mr. Singh's remarks, Mr. Jain told The Hindu that "this backstabbing was uncalled for" and that "he [Mr. Jitendra Singh] seems to have spotted an opportunity to do politics", even as lawyers from his team said that they now intended to distance themselves from Mr. Singh in all other matters everywhere.

Advocate Ranjana Agnihotri, part of Mr. Jain's legal team, said Mr. Singh's suit in the Mathura matter was a different one (Ms. Agnihotri is one of the original plaintiffs in the Shahi Idgah Mosque-Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi dispute). She said they also intended to distance themselves from the suit in Delhi with regards to the dispute over the Qutub Minar complex.

Mr. Singh joined the Mathura case through a suit filed by Kiran Singh, one of his relatives. In the Qutub Minar suit, claiming the existence of 27 Hindu and Jain temples at the site, Mr. Singh had been added as a plaintiff alongside Mr. Jain and Ms. Agnihotri.

“You can say we have personal issues,” Mr. Singh said on Wednesday. “Our working styles are different. Hari Shankar ji is quite old and his health does not allow him to represent us as robustly.”

Mr. Jain said this was not going to affect them in any way in court. “I am still representing four plaintiffs in the Gyanvapi matter and other plaintiffs in the Mathura and Qutub Minar matters. We will argue as we intended to and he [Mr. Singh] may like to engage his own team to fight it out alone if he wants to.”

But he said he did not see how Mr. Singh intended to go at it himself. "I was the one who filed the original suits. My legal team and I have done all the research on these matters and he has had no role in any of it," he said.

Mr. Singh said their organisation VVSS had its own legal advisory committee with about 40 lawyers. “Some of them are already arguing the cases for us. We will continue with them.”

Meanwhile, lawyers in Mr. Jain’s team said that the incident revealed Mr. Singh’s standing in these matters. One of them, asking not to be named, said, “His subsequent suits in the matter are all copy pasted from what we had filed earlier. In fact, Hari Shankar Jain was the one who obliged him and took him in as part of his suits in the first place.”

Mr. Jain said Mr. Singh first came to meet him in December 2019 after the Supreme Court's Ayodhya judgement. "I knew him in passing through his association with the Hindu Mahasabha. But he kept coming to me asking me to let him join our work. I also thought that he is a religious person who wants to work for our cause, so I took him along. But he has betrayed my trust. That is all I will say about it."

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