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New Delhi: A local Varanasi court was told on Monday (May 16) that a ‘shivling‘ was found during the videographed survey inside the Gyanpai mosque premises. The court then ordered that the area where the shivling was found be sealed.
The lawyer representing the Hindu women said that the linga was found inside a pond in the mosque complex, NDTV reported. “The pond was used for ablution (wuzu) purification rituals,” lawyer Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi said, but was drained during the survey.
Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar told the Varanasi district magistrate to ensure that nobody accesses the area. The police commissioner and CRPF were also told to keep the area safe, according to Bar and Bench.
“Application under 78 G is allowed. The District Magistrate, Varanasi is ordered to seal the place where the Shivling has been recovered with immediate effect and the entry of any person is prohibited in the sealed place. District Magistrate, Varanasi, Commissioner of Police, Police Commissionerate, Varanasi and CRPF, Commandant, Varanasi are ordered to all the above officers will be considered personally responsible for protecting the place which has been sealed,” the order said.
On May 12, the same court had said that the survey and videography should continue despite concerns raised by the mosque committee, and the final report submitted by May 17.
The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, says the religious character of place of worship will continue as it existed on on August 15, 1947, and:
“No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.”
The same act says “conversion, with its grammatical variations, includes alteration or change of whatever nature.”
The only exception in this law was for the “Babri Masjid/Ram Janam Bhoomi’ dispute in Ayodhya.
Though the 1991 Act bars the jurisdiction of courts in any matter involving the conversion of a place of worship from one religion to another, five Hindu women had submitted a petition to the Varanasi court seeking year-round access to what they said was the Maa Shringar Gauri shrine located behind the western wall of the mosque complex.
In response, the court in April had ordered an inspection of the mosque premises, to be headed by advocate commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra. It had ordered for a report to be submitted by May 10.
The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee had moved the Allahabad high court challenging the Varanasi court’s order, but on April 21, their petition was denied. The Varanasi court’s May 16 order sealing the area where the shivling was reportedly found comes a day before the Supreme Court was to hear the mosque committee’s appeal against the high court order.
On April 26, the local court ordered for a video to be recorded of the disputed site and after that, the inspection began on May 6, amidst heavy security.
However, there were many objections to videography inside the mosque premises. Thereafter, the Masjid committee filed an application before the court seeking the replacement of Mishra as the advocate commissioner leading the survey, alleging bias in favour of the petitioners.
The court did not call for Mishra’s replacement, however, it did appoint two additional advocate commissioners – Ajay Singh and Vishal Singh – to assist in undertaking the survey, the Indian Express reported.