Thursday, February 22, 2024

Allahabad High Court rejects plea by Muslim party challenging ASI survey of mosque premises in Gyanvapi-Kashi Vishwanath case

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The Allahabad High Court has dismissed the plea filed by muslim party challenging the order by the Varanasi court permitting the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for conducting a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises.

The order was passed by the bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker today, after noting that the scientific survey is important in the interest of justice.

The High Court on July 27 had reserved its verdict while stating that interim stay imposed by the apex court on the scientific survey, shall stand extended till August 3.

The Varanasi district court judge AK Vishwesha on July 21,had allowed the ASI survey.

The Supreme Court was approached by the Muslim side against the same and the apex court ordered status quo to be maintained until July 26 but asked the Muslim side to move the High Court against the district judge’s order.

The Anjuman Mosque Committee had filed an appeal before the High Court on challenging the order of the Varanasi Court directing the ASI to survey the mosque premises (except for Wuzukhana).

On May 19, the Supreme Court put on hold the scientific survey ordered by the Allahabad High Court of a structure found inside the Varanasi Gyanvapi mosque, to ascertain whether it was a Shivling, as claimed by the Hindu plaintiffs, or a fountain, as claimed by the Muslim side.

The Anjuman Islamia Masjid committee, which manages the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, had moved the Apex Court against the Allahabad High Court verdict of May 12 that ordered a scientific survey of the Shivling.

Representing AIMC, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi had said that the survey steps would commence soon.

He submitted that the High Court passed the order, even as the judgment on the petition filed by the Masjid Committee questioning the maintainability of the suit has been reserved since December 2022.

As per Ahmadi, the ASI’s report was presented before the Court on May 11 and the order was passed the next day, without giving proper opportunity to the Mosque Committee to file detailed objections.

Appearing for the state of Uttar Pradesh, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta expressed concerns regarding damage to the structure during the survey.

Representing the Hindu plaintiffs, Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain submitted that the ASI report said the survey can be done without causing damage to the structure and requested the Bench to call for the report.

On May 12, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Arvind Kumar Mishra-I had directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a scientific survey (using modern techniques) of the ‘Shivling,’ which was purportedly found inside the Gyanvapi Mosque premises in Varanasi, to ascertain its age.

The High Court had further allowed a revision plea moved by four women Hindu worshippers against the October 14 order of the Varanasi court, which had rejected their plea.

The Gyanvapi mosque has been the subject of dispute after Hindu devotees approached a civil court seeking the right to worship inside Gyanvapi Mosque, claiming that it was a Hindu temple and that it still houses Hindu deities.

Earlier, the civil court ordered a survey of the Mosque itself by an advocate commissioner, who then videotaped the premises and submitted a report to the civil court in May 2022.

The current matter concerns disputed claims over whether the structure found on the premises of the Gyanvapi mosque during that earlier survey was a Shivaling, as claimed by the Hindu parties in the case.

The Supreme Court temporarily deferred the High Court’s direction while seeking the responses of the Central and Uttar Pradesh governments to the appeal filed by a Muslim party challenging such a direction.

This matter is presently pending before the top court.

However, the District Court on July 21 ordered an ASI survey of the mosque premises excluding the area previously sealed by the Supreme Court (wuzukhana or an ablution pond).

This led to the present plea.

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