[Gyanvapi] Restricting Hindu's right to worship which was a daily affair before 1990 is a continuing wrong, says Allahabad HC while dismissing Mosque's committee's revision plea

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The denial of the right to worship the object of it, that is the deity, is a continuing wrong within the meaning of Section 22 of the Limitation Act, 1963, said the high court.

While dismissing the revision plea filed by the Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masajid, Varanasi, the Allahabad High Court recently observed that it is common ground between the Hindu devotees and the Mosque Management at Gyanvapi that prior to the year 1990, the pooja, darshan of Maa Sringar Gauri, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman and the other deities in the suit property was a daily affair.

"(therefore) The restriction of that right to a single day, in the opinion of this Court, is a continuing wrong within the meaning of Section 22 of the Act of 1963 (the Limitation Act)," opined the bench of Justice JJ Munir.

Court, in its May 31, 2023 order, noted that the right to worship the deities is not comparable to a right to office or property, wherefrom a person, once ousted, suffers a completed wrong at that point of time, and later on, the continuing effects of the injury.

"The denial of the right to worship the object of it, that is the Deity, is a continuing wrong, that happens everyday and every minute it is denied," stated the single judge bench. 

The mosque management committee had filed the revision plea against the order passed by the Varanasi District and Sessions Judge rejecting its application challenging the maintainability of the suit by five Hindu women.

The high court emphasised in its judgment that the Hindu women's suit is not for altering property's character instead they assert the existence of a right on a daily basis to do pooja and darshan of the deities within old temple inside suit property, that was exercised by Hindus in general, without hitch until the year 1990.

Court noted that the temporal restriction of allowing pooja once a year came in the year 1993 by the State government and the district administration for the sake of administrative exigency . 

"The right was not restricted to a single day upon an objection or resistance by the revisionist. The right of the devotees of Maa Sringar Gauri, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman and the other Deities in the suit property, according to the pleadings in the plaint, is an existing right, which the plaintiffs, as such devotees, seek to enforce throughout the year for themselves," court pointed out. 

Court added that it failed to see that if pooja and darshan of Hindu deities can be allowed once a year with no threat to the mosque's character, how making it a daily or a weekly affair, would lead to a conversion or change of mosque's character.

Therefore, while stressing that the suit in question is confined in its office to enforcement of the plaintiffs' right to worship, according to the established tradition, court held that how far that right can be established, is relevant for the purpose of present suit and that must await trial.

Five Hindu women have filed a suit before the local court at Varanasi where they have alleged that Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman & other visible and invisible deities reside inside the Gyanvapi Complex, therefore, they should be allowed to perform all rituals of these deities inside the complex all year long. Currently, permission is granted to perform the rituals of Hindu pooja at Gyanvapi only once a year.

On September 12, 2022, Dr. A.K. Vishvesha, District and Sessions Judge, Varanasi, rejected the mosque committee's application filed under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure questioning the maintainability of the said suit.

The Varanasi court had rejected the contention raised by the mosque management committee that the suit was barred by three Acts i.e. the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991; the Waqf Act, 1995 and the Uttar Pradesh Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983.

Regarding the bar imposed by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, the judge had categorically opined that since the plaintiff's has made averments in the plaint that even after 15th August 1947 they were worshiping Maa Srinagar Gauri, Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman daily up to the year 1993, therefore, it could not be said that the suit was barred under the said statute. 

However, the mosque committee challenged the order before the high court. 

To be noted, another single judge bench of the high court has reserved the judgment in the five petitions that had been clubbed together pertaining to the land dispute at Gyanvapi. The issue in the petitions mainly concerns a survey of the Gyanvapi complex by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Case Title: Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Varanasi Vs Smt. Rakhi Singh And 9 Others