New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Varanasi district magistrate to take steps to protect the “shivaling” in the Gyanvapi Mosque-Shringar Gauri Temple Complex without in any way impeding the entry of Muslims into the mosque for offering prayers and other religious observances.
Issuing notice on the petition by the committee of management of the Anjuman e-Intezamia Masjid that challenged the orders of the Varanasi civil judge (senior division), Justice D.Y. Chandrachud heading a bench also comprising Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha posted the matter for further hearing on May 19.
“The area where shivling as indicated in the impugned order (of the Varanasi district court) is found shall be protected. The above order shall not in any manner restrict or impede the entry of Muslims to the mosque for namaz or religious observances,” the order passed today said.
By its order issued today, the Supreme Court modified the May 16 order issued by a civil judge in Varanasi. Allowing an application by the plaintiff, the court directed the district magistrate, commissioner of police and the Central Reserve Police Force Commandant to take steps to protect the shiviling and saddled them with individual responsibilities.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi urged the top court to restrain the Varanasi civil judge from passing any further orders in the matter.
Declining to stay the proceedings before Varanasi court, Justice Chandrachud said that ordinarily when the top court is seized of a matter, subordinate courts refrain from passing orders in such matters.
Mr. Ahmadi drew attention to the “lack of fairness in the proceedings” in Varanasi, claiming that orders were issued ex-parte. He said the May 16 order was passed on an application by the plaintiff even though the court appointed local advocate commissioner was conducting the survey and was yet to file his report as ordered by the trial court.
Appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that raising questions about the fairness of the proceedings of the lower court amounted to casting aspersions. Mr Ahamdi retorted, saying that he was stating facts and not casting aspersions.
Mr Ahamdi told the court that “wuzu” – washing hands and feet before offering namaz – was a ritual and sought access to wuzu khana. At which Mr Mehta said that if anyone kept their foot on the shivlinga during the process, it would disturb the law and order situation.
Informing the top court that the Varanasi trial court passed all the orders without first deciding on their challenge regarding the maintainability of the suit, Mr Ahmadi said that the proceedings in the 1991 suit were already stayed by the high court and both the suits are barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991.
The petitioner, Anjuman e-Intezamia Masjid, challenged the three orders of the Varanasi court—the survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque-Shringar Gauri Temple Complex, the appointment of a local advocate as court commission to conduct the survey, and the May 16 order on protecting the area and restricting activities, including the number of Muslims visiting the mosque.
Seeking a stay of all the aforementioned orders passed by the trial court, Mr Ahmadi argued, “These orders are not good on grounds of jurisdiction. These orders, whereby the commission etc have been appointed, must come to a standstill. The status quo as it existed on the date the suit was entertained should be maintained. All orders are illegal.”