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A Supreme Court bench of Justices Chandrachud, Surya Kant and PS Narasimha today directed that the Civil Suit pertaining to the Gyanvapi dispute be transferred from the court of Civil Judge Senior Division Varanasi to the court of District Judge for further proceedings. The court directed that all interlocutory and ancillary proceedings be decided by District Judge.
In its order, which the Supreme Court dictated (official order yet to be uploaded) that adequate arrangement for observance of "Wuzu" at the disputed site, if not already made is to be effectuated by District Magistrate in consultation with parties.
The court has further held that the interim order it had passed on May 17, 2022 which protects area where Shivlinga has been found will continue till the objection to maintainbility of the suit filed the Mosque administration is decided by the district court and will continue for 8 weeks after that.
When the matter came up for hearing, Justice Chandrachud suggested that since the application challenging the maintainability of the suit under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Civil Procedure Code (by the Muslim side) is pending before trial court, the court can let Civil Jude dispose the petition. It was further suggested that the interim order passed on May 17, 2022 can continue till the application is disposed off. Justice Chandrachud said “as there is a lot of complexity and sensitivity in this case, it should be heard by a senior Judicial officer by the trial court.”
C.S. Vaidyanathan Sr. Adv, appearing for the Hindu side submitted that a religious character has emerged from findings of the report as a result of which the application by the Muslim side challenging the maintainability of the suit may not be maintainable.
Huzefa Ahmedi, Sr. Adv, appearing for the committee of the Mosque argued that the entire exercise needs to be "nipped right in the bud” as it is taking place in derogation of the Places of Worship Act. He further argued that “grave mischief" and asked for the report to be quashed.
Ahmedi argued that “the appointment of the commission itself is being selectively leaked" in order to build a narrative, and that it is something that the Supreme Court must interdict here.”
He informed the court that The property was being used for 500 years, to order its sealing - the status quo is being violated and that the appointment of the commission was itself an illegal exercise in light of the Places of Worship Act.
The bench at this point informed Ahmedi that the Supreme Court Cannot comment on maintainability of a suit and that it cannot just stand up and decide on maintainability of a suit.” Ahmedi then argued that what was found in the site was not a Shivalinga but a fountain, when this was objected to by Vaidyanathan, Ahmedi informed the court that an attempt is being made to gag their submissions.
Justice Chandrachud at this juncture opined that hat the ascertainment of the religious character of a place cannot be barred by the Places of Worship Act, 1991.
He said, “Hybrid character of religious places very common in India. Forget mosque and Shivlinga, the existence of a Cross in an Agyari (Parsi fire temple) will not make a place a christian place of worship."
As the court expressed their intention to rise, Ahmedi said, “the area where they are saying a Shivlinga has been found has a pond, we say its a fountain. That area has taps, that area may be opened for access for Wazu.” SG Tushar Mehta strongly objected to this. The bench said that it does not have a picture and Ahmedi's prayer is difficult to be entertained.
The bench upon hearing the submissions made by the parties passed an order transferring the suit from the court of Civil Judge Senior Division Varanasi to the court of District Judge for for further proceedings. The bench further directed that all interlocutory and ancillary proceedings be decided by District Judge. The bench has further held that the interim order it had passed on May 17, 2022 which protects area where Shivlinga has been found will continue till the objection to maintainability of the suit filed the Mosque administration is decided by the district court and will continue for 8 weeks after that.
Yesterday, the Court had deferred the hearing in the plea challenging the survey of the Gyanvapi disputed site till today. Court further passed an order directing the Trial Court to not proceed with the hearing or pass any orders in the matter pending before it.
On the last date of hearing, while upholding the order of Varanasi court to protect the area where the indicated Shivling has been found, the Top Court modified it to the extent that the local court's direction in any manner will not restrain the access of Muslims to the mosque or use of it for performing prayers and religious activities.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to issue directions for maintaining the status quo on the survey of the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex at Varanasi.
The Court had refused to pass an interim order in order put on hold, the process of inspection, conduct of videography and collection of evidence regarding the alleged existence of Hindu deities inside the Gyanvapi Mosque complex located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Before this, a Varanasi court had allowed the court-appointed commissioner Ajai Kumar Mishra to inspect, conduct videography and collect evidence regarding the alleged existence of Hindu deities inside the Gyanvapi Mosque complex located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
The development is taking place in a plea moved by 5 women seeking performance of all rituals of Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman & other deities within the "old temple complex" allegedly existing inside the mosque site.
The local court had appointed an advocate commissioner for "inspection & videography" of the "disputed site” on August 18, 2021 and had directed the authorities to submit a report by May 10. However, the date was extented and the court-appointed commission's report is due today.
Case Title: Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Varanasi Vs. Rakhi Singh & Anr.
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