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Gyanvapi: SC extends order securing site of Shivling claim

The apex court was hearing a plea seeking extension of the protection of the area in Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex, where a ‘Shivling’ was claimed to have been found during a videographic survey of the mosque premises earlier this year.

The mosque committee had challenged this before the Allahabad High Court, which dismissed the appeal on April 21. The committee then approached the Supreme Court. (File)

The Supreme Court Friday extended its interim direction securing the area in the Gyanvapi complex in Varanasi where a ‘Shivling’ was claimed to have been found during a videographic survey of the mosque area without impeding or restricting the rights of Muslims to access and offer namaz at the mosque till further orders.

“We direct that pending further orders, the interim order dated May 17 as extended on May 20 shall continue to remain in operation,” a bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices Surya Kant and P S Narasimha ordered.

Hearing a petition by five Hindu women seeking the right to worship at Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal, on the outer wall of the mosque complex, a Varanasi court had on April 8 appointed an Advocate Commissioner to carry out an inspection of the site, “prepare videography of the action”, and submit a report.

The mosque committee had challenged this before the Allahabad High Court, which dismissed the appeal on April 21. The committee then approached the Supreme Court.

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Hearing it in May this year, the Supreme Court, however, said that “ascertainment of the religious character of a place is not barred by… the (Places of Worship) Act” and declined to stay proceedings before the Varanasi court.

It asked the District Magistrate to secure the area where the ‘Shivling’ was claimed to have been found, without impeding or restricting the rights of Muslims to access and offer namaz at the mosque.

Taking into account the “complexity of the issues involved in the civil suit…and their sensitivity”, the top court transferred the proceedings pending before the Civil Judge (Senior Division), Varanasi, to the District Judge, Varanasi, for “trial and all interlocutory and ancillary proceedings”. The bench also asked the District Court to first decide the application filed by the mosque committee, challenging the maintainability of the suit by the Hindu petitioners.

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The May 17 order was to continue for eight weeks from the date on which the District Court decides the question of maintainability of the suit filed by the Hindu women devotees.

On September 12, the District Court said that the suit seeking the right to worship inside the Gyanvapi mosque is maintainable.

With that period set to run out on November 12, the Hindu side approached the SC, seeking extension. On Friday, the Muslim side told the bench that no reply had yet been filed on its appeal.

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Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Hindu side, assured that he would file a response in three weeks.

First published on: 11-11-2022 at 15:49 IST
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