Supreme Court hands over Gyanvapi dispute to Varanasi District Judge

A three-judge Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud posted the matter for further hearing in July after summer vacation

Supreme Court hands over Gyanvapi dispute to Varanasi District Judge

Gyanvapi complex in Varanasi. PTI File

Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, May 20

The Supreme Court on Friday handed over the trial of the suit for permission to worship Hindu deities inside the Gyanvaapi Complex to the Varanasi District Judge, saying it needed to be handled by a "slightly more experienced and seasoned" officer from the UP Higher Judicial Service.

Till then, the interim order passed by the top court on May 17 for protection of area where a court-mandated survey panel found a ‘Shivling’ and allowing free access to Muslims to offer namaz in the mosque should continue, a three-judge Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud said.

The top court, however, refused to interfere with the Gyanvapi survey report.

Supreme Court said its interim order would remain in force for eight weeks after the District Judge decides issue of maintainability of the suit filed by Hindu parties so as to allow aggrieved parties to challenge the Varanasi District Judge's decision.

The case was being heard by Varanasi Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar. But after Friday's top court order, the Varanasi District Judge will decide if the suit filed by the Hindu side was maintainable.

The Bench directed the Varanasi District Magistrate to make arrangements for Wazookhana for the Muslims going there to offer namaz.

The Bench -- which also included Justice Surya Kant and Justice PS Narasimha --posted the matter for further hearing in July after summer vacation.

After a court-mandated videography of the Gyanvapi complex discovered a ‘Shivling’ on its premises, Diwakar had on Monday ordered the place to be sealed. He had ordered the Varanasi District Magistrate to seal the area where the ‘Shivling’ was found to ensure that no one entered the premises. It had ordered the District Magistrate, Police Commissioner and the Central Reserve Police Force to ensure that the sealed area remained safe and secure.

The Supreme Court had on Tuesday ordered protection of the area where a ‘Shivling’ was reported to have been found at the Gyanvapi Shringar Gauri Complex in Varanasi and clarified that there shall be no restriction on Muslims offering namaz or other religious observances there.

The top court had made it clear that the trial judge’s order that only 20 people will offer namaz at the disputed complex will not operate now.

The order had come on a petition filed by ‘Committee of Management of Anjuman Intezamia Masajid’ challenging the Allahabad High Court’s order permitting a local court-appointed commissioner to inspect, conduct survey and video-graph the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex.

On behalf of the ‘Committee of Management of Anjuman Intezamia Masajid’, senior counsel Huzefa Ahmadi on Friday repeated his submission that Gyanvapi Mosque was covered under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. He said the trial court’s order was in the teeth of the Act. It's spoiling communal atmosphere in the country, he added.

Ahmadi took objection to the change in the status quo that had continued for hundreds of years.

As he said Wazookhana was not being allowed to be used, senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, representing a Hindu party, said desecration of the place where the 'Shivling' was found can't be allowed.

Vaidyanathan wanted the religious character of the place to be determined.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said arrangements were there for Wazookhana.

Ascertainment of the religious character of the place is not barred by the Act, Justice Chandrachud noted. At some level the trial judge's decision to go for survey to determine the religious character may not fall foul of the Act, he said.

Tribune Shorts


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