Supreme Court stays High Court's order directing scientific survey of Shiva Linga found inside Gyanvapi

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Exactly a year ago, on May 16, 2022, during a survey by the court-appointed commission, a Shivling-like structure was found inside the Wazookhana of the Gyanvapi mosque complex. 

A CJI DY Chandrachud led bench of the Supreme Court today stayed the Allahabad High Court order allowing an ASI survey/ scientific survey of the alleged Shivlingam found at Gyanvapi for evaluation of its age.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of UP, submitted before a bench also comprising Justice PS Narasimha  that the government will also examine, in consultation with Archeological Survey of India, to find out if there is a better alternative method to ascertain age of the Shivling.

While issuing notice in the SLP filed by the Gyanvapi mosque's management committee against the High Court's order, court said, "since the implications of the directions of the High Court order would merit closer scrutiny, thus it stands deferred till next date".

Yesterday, the said SLP was mentioned by Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi who had submitted that while an appeal filed by the Committee of Management of Anjuman Intezamia Masjid challenging the Varanasi court order on the issue of maintainability was still pending, an order for carbon dating was allowed by the court.

On May 12, the High Court had passed the impugned order after the Archaeological Survey of India had filed its report about the feasibility of a safe investigation of the said structure. 

The bench of Justice Arvind Kumar Mishra passed the order in a revision petition moved by the Hindu plaintiffs against the order of District Judge, Varanasi dated October 14, 2022, whereby the judge had dismissed their application seeking a scientific probe of the Shivlingam-like structure.

The district judge had held that since the Supreme Court had ordered to protect the place where alleged Shivlingam was found, therefore, the plea for its 'scientific investigation' could not be allowed. The judge had also observed that the scientific examination, as sought, may damage the structure.

It is the Hindu plaintiffs' claim that the structure found inside the Wazookhana of the mosque complex is a Shivalingam, however, the claim is being contested by the Muslim side who argue that it is actually a non-functioning old fountain. 

Against the decision of the Varanasi District Judge, the Hindu plaintiffs moved the high court contending that the said order was bad in law because it was based on a priori reasoning that a scientific investigation of the alleged Shivlingam would lead to its damage.

It is to be noted, on May 16, 2022, during a survey by the court-appointed commission, a Shivling-like structure was found inside the Wazookhana of the mosque complex. 

On the same day, Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar passed an order to seal the disputed site at the complex. Thereafter, the matter reached the top court and a division bench while upholding the order of the Varanasi court to protect the area 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.

Case Title: Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Varanasi vs. Rakhi Singh