Gyanvapi Mosque Committee moves Allahabad HC Against Varanasi Court order allowing Hindus to worship in southern cellar

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On Wednesday, the District Court granted had permission to a priest, who filed a plea seeking direction to allow him the right to worship Hindu deities in the cellar of the Gyanvapi. The priest claimed that before being closed by the state government, his maternal grandfather, priest Somnath Vyas, conducted prayers in the Gyanvapi cellar until 1993




The  Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee, Varanasi today moved the Allahabad High Court challenging the January 31 order of the Varanasi district court allowing Hindu devotees to worship in 'Vyas Tehkana' or the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi. Earlier today, Committee's attempts in the Supreme Court were redirected to the Allahabad High Court by the Registrar's instructions.

On Wednesday, the District Court had granted permission to priest Shailendra Kumar Pathak, who filed a plea seeking direction to allowing him the right to worship Hindu deities in the cellar of the Gyanvapi.

Pathak had submitted before the District Court that his maternal grandfather, priest Somnath Vyas, conducted prayers in the Gyanvapicellar until 1993 when it was shut down by the Uttar Pradesh Government.

Allowing Pathak's plea, the District Court had ordered that the Kashi Vishwanath Trust, overseeing the Kashi Vishwanath temple, would facilitate prayers in the mosque cellar. The court had instructed the Varanasi district magistrate to arrange for the puja by Pathak within seven days.

Recently, in its reports, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), stated that there existed a Hindu temple beneath the current structure of the mosque.

"Based on scientific studies/survey carried out, study of architectural remains, exposed features and artifacts, inscriptions, art and sculptures, it can be said that there existed a Hindu temple prior to the construction of the existing structure," the ASI's report stated. 

Background of the matter

Before the Varanasi local court, the Ancient Idol of Swayambhu Lord Vishweshwar and 5 others filed a suit in 1991 seeking removal of the Gyanvapi Mosque and restoration of the land to Hindus.

On April 8, 2021, Civil Judge Senior Division, Varanasi Civil Court allowed the Archeological Survey of India (ASI)  to conduct a comprehensive physical survey of the Gyanvapi mosque adjacent to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Against this order, Anjuman Intezamiya Masajid Varanasi knocked on the high court's doors, which stayed the proceedings before the lower court including the ASI survey of Gyanvapi. 

The stay on the survey was extended from time to time by the high court.

A total of five petitions were being heard together by the high court pertaining to the dispute. 

Meanwhile, in another related matter, 5 Hindu worshippers filed a suit before the local court seeking right to worship Hindu deities already existing inside the Gyanvapi complex. 

In the matter, a Varanasi Local Court, on July 21, 2023 ordered an ASI survey of the entire Gyanvapi complex except for the Wazukhana area which is currently sealed in pursuance of the Top Court's order. The local court directed the ASI to conduct the survey without damaging any existing structure.

The survey was to be done to determine whether there was any Hindu temple in the past at the disputed site upon which the Gyanvapi mosque was built as a superstructure. 

Against the local court's order, the mosque management committee moved the Supreme Court, which stayed the ASI survey till July 26, 5:00 pm. This gave some breathing time to the mosque side to file an appeal/revision against the local court's order before the high court.

Finally, on August 3, 2023, the Allahabad high court bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker gave a green signal to the ASI survey of the Gyanvapi premises.