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SC to Hear Plea of Gyanvapi Mosque Committee Against Ongoing Survey

The survey was stalled last week amid objections by the mosque committee, which claimed that the advocate commissioner appointed by the court for the survey did not have the mandate to film inside the premises.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to hear next week the plea of the management of Gyanvapi mosque against the ongoing survey of the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

According to the order, uploaded on the apex court’s website on Saturday, the plea of the Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, which manages the affairs of Gyanvapi mosque, would be heard by a bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

The date of the proposed hearing has not been uploaded on the apex court’s website till now.

On Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana had refused to pass any interim order of status quo against the ongoing survey of the religious complex on the plea of the Muslim side.

The CJI-led bench, however, had agreed to consider listing the plea for hearing.

“Upon being mentioned by Huzefa Ahmadi, senior counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner, we deem it appropriate to direct the Registry to list the matter before the bench presided over by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud,” the bench, also comprising Justices J.K. Maheshwari and Hima Kohli said in its order.

Meanwhile, the videography survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex in Varanasi which resumed on Saturday following a local court order was carried out without any interruption as all parties cooperated, officials said.

They said that the survey work will continue on Sunday.

The survey was stalled last week amid objections by the mosque committee, which claimed that the advocate commissioner appointed by the court for the survey did not have the mandate to film inside the premises.

“The survey work went on in a peaceful manner. There was no objection from anyone. Everything is normal and conducive, and all parties co-operated,” police commissioner of Varanasi A. Satish Ganesh told PTI.

“Today’s survey is over, and it will continue tomorrow,” he said.

District Magistrate of Varanasi Kaushal Raj Sharma said, “Amid tight security arrangements, the videography of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex was held on Saturday, and almost 50% of the survey work has been done.”

“The survey will continue on Sunday as well. It was conducted from 8 am to 12 noon. The Varanasi police commissioner and a trustee of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust were also present during the survey,” Sharma said.

The mosque is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple and the local court is hearing a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily prayers before the idols on its outer walls.

An important meeting was held with all parties concerned on Friday, Sharma had said earlier, and added that an appeal was made to them to cooperate in the commission’s work and the maintenance of law and order.

More than 1,500 policemen and PAC jawans have been deployed as part of the security arrangement.

The officials said the movement of people has been stopped at a distance of 500 metres from the Gyanvapi complex. The police have also stopped vehicular movement coming from the Godaulia and Maidagin areas of the city.

Meanwhile, petitioner Ahmadi, appearing for the mosque committee, had told the apex court bench that a plea has been filed against the survey being conducted at the site and had sought an urgent interim order in the case.

“We have filed in relation to a survey which has been directed to be conducted in relation to the Varanasi property. This (Gyanvapi) has been a mosque since time immemorial and this is clearly interdicted by the Places of Worship Act,” Ahmadi had said.

The Muslim side has been referring to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and its Section 4 which bars filing of any suit or initiating any other legal proceeding for a conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, as existing on August 15, 1947.

A Varanasi local court on May 12 had rejected a plea to replace the advocate commissioner it had appointed for conducting a videography survey of the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex and ordered completion of the task by May 17.

The district court also appointed two more lawyers to help the advocate commissioner carry out the survey at the mosque, which is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple.

It ordered the police to register FIRs if there are attempts to scuttle the exercise.

Also read: ‘Blatant Violation of Places of Worship Act’: Asaduddin Owaisi on Gyanvapi Mosque Order

The local court’s May 12 order came on a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily worship of Hindu deities whose idols are located on an outer wall of the mosque.

The mosque management committee had opposed filming inside the mosque and also accused the court-appointed commissioner of partiality. Amid the opposition, the survey was stalled for a while.

Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar also dismissed objections to the opening of the two closed basements in the mosque complex for the survey, according to the counsel representing Hindu petitioners.

The court also directed the district magistrate and the police commissioner to monitor the exercise and lodge an FIR if anyone created hurdles in the survey.

It said the survey could be done in the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex between 8 am and 12 pm daily till its completion.

The videographic survey of the mosque was ordered on April 18, 2021 by Judge Diwakar following the plea by Delhi residents Rakhi Singh, Laxmi Devi, Sita Sahu and others.

The original suit was filed in 1991 in the Varanasi district court for the restoration of the ancient temple at the site where the Gyanvapi mosque currently stands.

The plea has been taken in the suit that said the mosque is a part of the temple.

Varanasi’s fast-track court headed by a civil judge (senior division) had on April 8, 2021 directed the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct a survey of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex and ascertain if a temple was demolished to build the mosque that stands adjacent to the temple.

The Allahabad high court, however, stayed the Varanasi court’s order on petitions filed by Anjuman Intazamia Masjid and the Sunni Central Waqf Board.

(With PTI inputs)