SC to hear plea on Varanasi Gyanvapi Mosque matter today
The Supreme Court will hear the Varanasi Gyanvapi Mosque management's plea against the court-mandated videography survey on Tuesday. This comes a day after the survey team found a Shivling inside the mosque complex, following which a Varanasi court issued an order to seal the area where it was discovered. To recall, the Gyanvapi Mosque complex's three-day court-ordered videography survey was completed on Monday.
A high-voltage drama was witnessed on Monday after the videography survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque complex concluded. A Hindu petitioner, Sohan Lal Arya, claimed the committee found a Shivling near the wuzukhana, a small reservoir used by Muslim devotees to perform ablutions before offering the namaz. Following this, the Varanasi court had ordered to seal and secure the area where the Shivling was found.
Syed Mohammad Yasin—the joint secretary of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM)—vehemently disputed the Shivling claim, saying the object was part of the water fountain mechanism at the wuzukhana. Yasin also accused petitioner Rakhi Singh's lawyer Harishankar Jain of passing off a portion of a fountain within the pond as Shivling. Notably, AIM manages the Gyanvapi Mosque's affairs and is a respondent in the case.
Meanwhile, assistant court commissioner Ajay Pratap Singh said they would seek more time from the Varanasi court to submit the Gyanvapi Mosque survey report as it wasn't ready yet. The court earlier directed the survey commission to submit the report by Tuesday.
Meanwhile, following the Varanasi court's order on Monday, no special arrangements had to be made to seal the zone as the pond already had a fence with steel angles and netting along the three entry points. However, to ensure Muslim devotees don't face problems in reaching the mosque for namaz, Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said the administration was making alternative arrangements.
Notably, a Supreme Court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and PS Narasimha would hear the plea of the Committee of Management of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid on Tuesday. To recall, the apex court on Friday had refused to pass any interim order of status quo against the mosque's survey "until it had studied the subject." The plea was moved by the Muslim party.
In April 2021, five Delhi-based women—including Rakhi Singh—sought permission from a Varanasi court for year-long, daily worship of deities Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh, Lord Hanuman, and Nandi in the mosque complex. Currently, devotees are allowed to worship the Shringar Gauri only on the fourth day of Chaitra Navratri. Later, in April 2022, the court ordered a survey and videography by the court commissioner.
Back in 1991, lawyer Vijay Shankar Rastogi filed a petition in a Varanasi court as the "next friend" of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir's presiding deity. Rastogi had argued Maharaja Vikramaditya built a temple 2,050 years ago on the site where the Gyanvapi Mosque stands. Other petitioners claimed Aurangzeb built the mosque in the 17th century by removing a portion of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.
The 1991 Gyanvapi case was on hold for several years until the Allahabad High Court suspended the hearing. However, the case resurfaced in 2019 following the Supreme Court's decision in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case. The Allahabad HC's decision was based on the Places of Worship Act, 1991, forbidding any changes to a worship place's religious character as it was on August 15, 1947.