Allahabad High Court orders speed trial in three-decade-old Gyanvapi case, says Places of Religious Worship Act no bar : The Tribune India

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Allahabad High Court orders speed trial in three-decade-old Gyanvapi case, says Places of Religious Worship Act no bar

High Court dismissed five connected petitions filed over the years by mosque management committee and UP Central Sunni Waqf Board

Allahabad High Court orders speed trial in three-decade-old Gyanvapi case, says Places of Religious Worship Act no bar

View of Kashi Vishwanath Temple Dham and Gyanvapi Masjid complex, in Varanasi. PTI file



PTI

Prayagraj, December 19

The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday dismissed pleas challenging the maintainability of a 1991 suit seeking the “restoration” of a temple where the Gyanvapi mosque now exists in Varanasi, while observing that the “religious character” of a disputed place can only be decided by the court.

The high court dismissed five connected petitions filed over the years by the mosque management committee and the Uttar Pradesh Central Sunni Waqf Board.

It held that the suit filed before the district court is not barred by the Places of Religious Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 that mandated that the “religious character” of a place cannot be changed from what existed on 15 August, 1947.

In an important observation, Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal said the Act did not define the term “religious character” and this can only be determined through evidence in court presented by the opposing parties.

“Either the Gyanvapi compound has a Hindu religious character or a Muslim religious character. It can't have dual character at the same time,” Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal said.

He ordered that the trial in the case which is of “vital national importance” should be concluded as soon as possible, preferably within six months.

“In the national interest, it is required that the suit must proceed expeditiously and be decided with utmost urgency with the cooperation of both the contesting parties without resorting to any dilatory tactics,” he said, cautioning against any “unnecessary adjournment” in the lower court.

The order on the Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vihswanath temple issue follows other significant court rulings on temple-mosque disputes in Uttar Pradesh over the past months.

The Supreme Court earlier gave its go-ahead for a survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises by the Archaeological Survey of India and the high court allowed a survey of the Shahi Idgah mosque that adjoins the Krishna Janmasthan temple in Mathura.

Hindu litigants say the two mosques were built after the demolition, or partial demolition, of temples and the surveys would through up evidence proving this.

The high court took note of the ASI survey conducted at the Gyanvapi masjid, following directions by the trial court which is hearing the petition of a group of women seeking regular access to Hindu deities depicted on the mosque's rear wall.

If required, the lower court may direct ASI for a further survey, the judge added.

“The dispute raised in the suit is of vital national importance. It is not a suit between the two individual parties. It affects two major communities of the country,” he said while calling for a speedy trial.

The case was filed by petitioners seeking the right to worship in the Gyanvapi mosque adjoining the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Muslim litigants had challenged the maintainability of the suit, citing the 1991 Act.

But the court said, “The Act does not define “religious character”, and only “conversion” and “place of worship” have been defined under the Act.”

“What will be the religious character of the disputed place can only be arrived by the competent court after the evidences are led by the parties to the suit,” it said.

“Either the Gyanvapi Compound has a Hindu religious character or a Muslim religious character. It can't have dual character at the same time. The religious character has to be ascertained by the Court considering pleadings of the parties, and evidences led in support of pleadings,” it said.

The Places of Worship Act had exempted only the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute from its purview.

After a landmark Supreme Court verdict four years back, the first phase of the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is nearly over. The consecration ceremony will take place next month.

#Gyanvapi


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