NEW DELHI–Call it a Babri 2.0, a local court in Varanasi has directed Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to carry out the survey of entire premises of Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the adjacent Gyanvapi Masjid.
Civil Judge Ashutosh Tewari, who had reserved the order last week, directed the ASI to form a five-member team and study the entire premises.
The first petition was filed in the Varanasi civil court in 1991 on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar seeking permission for worship in Gyanvapi.
Later another petitioner Vijay Shankar Rastogi filed a petition in 2020 seeking to resume hearing of the case. He claimed that the entire premises belonged to the temple alone.
In his petition, he said Kashi Vishwanath Temple was built over 2000 years ago. He said Gyanvapi Mosque was allegedly constructed after the temple was demolished by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1669. The temple was re-constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar in 1780, he said.
Rastogi maintained that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 was not applicable to this suit. Barring for the litigation on the Ayodhya land dispute, this law prohibited courts from entertaining any petition that would alter the status quo of a religious place as existed on August 15, 1947.
Rastogi also referred to the Ayodhya land dispute verdict to underscore the need for excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India to resolve the issue.
After hearing the arguments, Civil Judge Ashutosh Tewari asked the ASI team to form a five-member team to study the entire premises. He said the entire cost will be borne by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Sunni Central Waqf Board, which had pleaded for the status quo has now decided to challenge this order before the Allahabad High Court.
On November 9, 2019, the Constitution bench of the SC comprising the then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, and S Abdul Nazeer had awarded the entire disputed area in Ayodhya to the Hindu parties.
It had directed the Centre to formulate a scheme within three months which will be responsible for building a temple. The SC has also ordered that an alternative land of 5 acres in Ayodhya would be given to the Sunni Central Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque.
The Babri judgment had infused a new life to different Hindutava organizations which had sought similar judgment in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple dispute. Even Akhil Bhartiya Sant Samiti had threatened to launch an agitation.
In a related development, a local Mathura court is hearing a plea seeking removal of Shahi Idgah Mosque situated adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi.