Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI—The Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Varanasi Anjuman Intezamia Masajid that looks after the management of the Gyanvapi mosque, are awaiting the verdict of the Allahabad High Court on a Varanasi court’s order for a “comprehensive archaeological physical survey” of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex, with a bated breath.
There is anxiety among the parties fighting the Gyanvapi case because of the past experience of the Muslim community with regard to the Babri Masjid in the Allahabad High Court as well as the Supreme Court. Despite the fact that all the evidence were in favour of the Babri Masjid and the apex court also admitted that the mosque was not built over any demolished structure, the site of the Babri Masjid was handed over for the construction of a Ram Temple over it.
The Allahabad High Court that has completed a hearing on a petition filed by the Sunni Waqf Board, challenging a Varanasi court order for a “comprehensive archaeological physical survey”, has announced to pronounce the verdict on September 9. The Varanasi court had given its order on April 8 this year.
The Varanasi court order had directed the ASI director-general to get a “comprehensive archaeological physical survey” done of the Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Masjid complex to find out if the Masjid standing at its present site is a “superimposition, alteration or addition or there is structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any religious structure.” The Varanasi court order is meant to determine whether the Masjid was built after destroying a portion of the Vishwanath Temple. Almost the same was the dispute raised in connection with the Babri Masjid.
The Gyanvapi Masjid management committee challenged the order of the Varanasi local court, arguing that the high court is yet to decide whether a civil suit in the Gyanvapi case is barred under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
The mosque committee had moved the high court in 1998 against an order of a Varanasi court, directing to find out if the mosque was constructed after demolition of a portion of the Vishwanath temple.
The Masjid committed had cited the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, passed by PV Narasimha Rao government that prohibited the filing of suits or initiating any other legal proceedings with regard to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947. However, only Ram Temple Babri Masjid was excluded from its purview.
The high court, therefore, granted a stay on it in 1998 but has not pronounced a verdict on it till now.
However, the high court completed the hearing in this case on March 2021 but reserved its order.
But on April 8, 2021, the Varanasi ordered the ASI to go ahead with the survey of the temple-Masjid complex to determine whether the mosque was built after the destruction of the temple.
The masjid management committee, again challenged the Varanasi court’s order, drawing attention to the case in which the high court had given a stay and also concluded hearing on March 15, 2021, but had not pronounced judgement. The mosque committee said that the Varanasi court order is illegal and without jurisdiction.
But the temple side contended that the stay stood automatically vacated in the light of a Supreme Court order in the Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt Ltd. The apex court, in this case, held that the stay granted by a court will end after the expiry of six months unless the stay is extended again.
But the Muslim side says that the Varanasi court aims to create extra evidence which will have serious consequences.
As of now, there are four land title cases related to the Gyanvapi Masjid pending in the Varanasi court. While the first case was filed in 1991, the remaining three cases were filed in March 2021.
The Hindu petitioner in the 1991 case held that a portion of the temple was demolished for the construction of the mosque. He produced a “firman” of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb issued on April 18, 1669, in support of his claim.
But the Varanasi civil court on October 18, 1997, held that the suit was not maintainable in the light of the 1991 Paces of Worship Act.
But the order was challenged by the Hindu petitioner. A revision court in September 1998 directed the civil court to decide the issue, after recording evidence of the parties.
The masjid management committee challenged this revision order before the Allahabad High Court. The high court stayed the order of the revision court but did not pronounce judgement despite the passing of more than 20 years in the case.