Updated: May 13, 2022 11:40:28 am
STATING THAT “an atmosphere of fear has been created”, a Varanasi court on Thursday ordered resumption of the video survey of the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex, which was halted last week following allegations of bias against the official in charge — even if it meant getting “locks opened/ broken”. The survey report should be submitted on May 17, it said.
While passing an order on an application filed by the mosque committee, which had accused court-appointed Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra of being “biased”, the court appointed two additional commissioners — lawyers Vishal Singh and Ajay Pratap Singh — to assist him. Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar said top district officials “have the responsibility” to complete the survey by the court-appointed Commission, and directed the DGP and Chief Secretary to supervise “related action”.
It ordered for an FIR to be registered “if anyone creates any hindrance”. “Under no condition should the Commission’s work be stopped even if any of the petitioners cooperate or not,” said the court.
In the order, the civil judge also struck a personal note after stating that “this action by the Commission is common, which is done in most civil matters, and very rarely is the Advocate Commissioner questioned”.
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“This common civil matter is being made into a very uncommon one and an atmosphere of fear has been created. The fear is such that my family is constantly worried about me and I am worried about them,” the judge said in the order.
“When (I am) away from home, my wife expresses worry about me repeatedly. Yesterday, my mother in Lucknow during our conversation expressed worry about my security and she got information through the media that I may go to the spot as Commissioner. She asked me not to go as Commissioner as this may be a threat to my security,” the judge said.
“In the concerned matter, the Advocate Commissioner has partially done the work and it doesn’t seem justified to raise fingers,” the court said, adding that the report should be submitted to the court by the Advocate Commissioners on May 17.
Speaking to The Indian Express, S M Yasin, general secretary of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee (Gyanvapi), said: “Following the court’s orders, we will allow the work of the Commission, and the inspection work will be done. We will not do anything against the court’s orders.”
Abhay Nath Yadav, the lawyer representing the mosque committee, said: “We will consult office-bearers of the Masjid Committee and discuss our next steps.”
Madan Mohan Yadav, who is one of the lawyers representing the five women petitioners, said: “The Commission’s members, including the Advocate Commissioners, will meet and discuss when the inspection should be done. The meeting will see participation from district officials and the government counsel.”
The video survey was halted on Saturday after the Masjid Committee filed an application in the court, alleging bias.
On Thursday, the Varanasi court stated: “During the inspection at the spot, as per court’s orders earlier, the plaintiffs, respondents, their lawyers, advocate Commissioners, their assistants and only other persons related to the Commission’s work will be the only people present at the spot. No outside person will be allowed there except those part of the Commission. The Advocate Commissioners will be independent to take photos and videos as per pointers being given by the parties.”
The court said that “if anyone creates any hindrance to this, like if there are some locks, then the district administration will have the full right to get the locks opened/broken for the Commission’s action”. The mosque management had earlier said that there were locks preventing access to two basements.
“The Varanasi District Magistrate, police Commissioner have the personal responsibility to complete the Commission’s action. The UP DGP, UP chief secretary (administration) are directed to supervise the related action so that the district officials can’t make any excuses to postpone the Commission’s action. The Commission’s action will be undertaken from 8 am to 12 noon every day till the Commission’s work concludes,” said the order.
It also said that “if any hindrance is created by anyone in the Commission’s action, then the district administration should lodge an FIR and take the strictest action possible”.
In a separate order on the application filed by the mosque committee accusing Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra of bias, the court said, “…Advocate Vishal Singh is appointed as Special Advocate Commissioner. And Assistant Advocate Commissioner will be Ajay Pratap Singh.”
On April 8, while hearing the petitioners, the Varanasi court had appointed Mishra to carry out a survey of the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal at the disputed site — and directed him to “prepare videography of the action” and submit a report.
On April 21, the Allahabad High Court dismissed a petition filed by the masjid committee challenging the local court’s order. On April 26, the Varanasi court again ordered videography of the disputed site, which began last Friday amid heavy security.
The petitioners have sought protection of their right to religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution, and orders for the defendants (mosque committee) to not create any hindrance to worship at the disputed site.
The petition had sought freedom to worship Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh, Lord Hanuman and Nandiji in the “old temple complex situated at settlement Plot No. 9130”. The mosque side has said that the petitioners should first identify the plot.
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