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Top court refuses to stay puja in Gyanvapi’s southern cellar

Says maintain status quo for both communities to offer prayers

Top court refuses to stay puja in Gyanvapi’s southern cellar

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay puja in the southern cellar of Gyanvapi mosque complex adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi even as it ordered that the status quo shall not be disturbed by either of the parties without its permission. - File photo



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, April 1

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay puja in the southern cellar of Gyanvapi mosque complex adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi even as it ordered that the status quo shall not be disturbed by either of the parties without its permission.

“At this stage, bearing in mind the fact that namaz is being offered by Muslim communities unhindered after the orders of the district court and the high court, and that prayers in tehkhana (cellar) is limited to Hindu priests, it’s important to maintain the status quo so that both communities can perform religious worship...” a three-judge Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud ordered.

The Bench, which also included Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, made it clear that the status quo “shall not be disturbed by either of the parties without obtaining the previous sanction and leave of this court”. While ordering status quo at the disputed site, the Bench issued notice to the Hindu side on Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee’s plea for a stay on puja in southern cellar.

“The religious observances by the Hindus shall be in terms of directions contained in the order dated January 31, 2024, subject to the custody of the receiver as specified in the earlier order dated Jan 17, 2024,” ordered the Bench.

Asking the Hindu side to file its response to the plea by April 30, the Bench posted the matter for further hearing in the third week of July. The order came on Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee’s plea against an Allahabad High Court verdict upholding a Varanasi court’s order allowing Hindu prayers in the southern cellar of the mosque. On behalf of the committee, senior counsel Huzefa Ahmadi demanded an absolute stay on puja at the cellar, saying bit by bit the committee will lose the entire site given the way petitions were being filed in the trial court where 20 suits were pending.

Senior advocate Shyam Diwan and advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, representing the Hindu side, opposed the prayer for stay, saying there was no need for interference by the top court at this juncture.

“This is a personal right as far as the Vyas family is concerned. For generations, they have been the pujaris. The final relief is not yet granted by the court,” Diwan submitted.

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