New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, November 11, extended till further orders the protection of the area where Hindu plaintiffs have alleged that a ‘shivling‘ was found at the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi.
The mosque’s caretakers have maintained it is a defunct fountain and not a ‘shivling’.
A bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Surya Kant and P.S. Narasimha allowed the Hindu parties to move an application before the Varanasi district judge for consolidation of all the lawsuits filed surrounding the claim that Hindu rituals be allowed at the mosque premises.
The CJI-led bench also directed the Hindu parties to file their replies within three weeks on the appeal filed by the management committee of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid challenging the Allahabad high court order on the appointment of a survey commissioner.
On May 17, the top court had passed an interim order directing the district magistrate of Varanasi to ensure protection of the area inside the Gyanvapi Mosque complex where the ‘shivling’ was claimed to have been found in the survey. It had clarified then that this order will not meddle with the right of Muslims to access the mosque and offer prayers there.
Five Hindu women plaintiffs had moved a Varanasi trial court alleging that the city’s Gyanvapi mosque houses Hindu deities. They asked that Hindus be allowed to pray there.
In April, the Varanasi court appointed a court commissioner to conduct a survey and video record the site. The mosque committee challenged this order before the Allahabad high court, but it was dismissed in the same month. The committee’s plea claiming that the court commissioner was biased was also dismissed.
On May 16, the plaintiff told the Varanasi court that a ‘shivling’ had been found within the mosque premises, following which Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar ordered that the area where it was found be sealed.
In a day, the Supreme Court instructed that the area where the ‘shivling’ was found should be protected but without impeding the access of Muslim devotees.
On May 20, the top court transferred the civil suit filed by the Hindu devotees on the Gyanvapi mosque from the civil judge (senior division) to the district judge of Varanasi, saying looking at the “complexities” and the “sensitivity” of the issue, it is better if a senior judicial officer with more than 25-30 years of experience handles the case.
A local court in Varanasi on November 8, deferred the pronouncement on another plea seeking permission to allow worship of the shivling to November 14.
(With PTI inputs)