DC Edit | Apex court’s stay on survey of Mathura Idgah welcome

The Sunni Waqf Board had challenged the very maintainability of the suit as well as the application

The Supreme Court order staying the Allahabad high court’s directive for a court-monitored survey of the Shahi Idgah mosque adjoining the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura is a welcome intervention on many counts. The court has pointed out legal as well as procedural issues while staying the direction for a three-member lawyer commission to inspect the mosque which, a section of devotees of Lord Krishna said, has signs suggesting that it was a temple in the past.

The high court order had come in on an application related to a petition moved by “Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman” and seven others seeking a direction to the defendants, including the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, to remove the Aurangzeb-era mosque and declare the land, including the area where the mosque is situated, as belonging to Lord Krishna. The petitioners had claimed that a lotus-shaped pillar, characteristic of Hindu temples, existed on the premises. An image of the deity, Sheshnag, is also present there, they had contended. The high court had on May 26, 2023, had transferred to itself all the 18 suits pertaining to the dispute pending before the Mathura court.

The Sunni Waqf Board had challenged the very maintainability of the suit as well as the application. It had pointed out that the petition was barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. Section 4 of the Act declared that “the religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August, 1947, shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day” and that “no suit, appeal or other proceeding with respect to any such matter shall lie on or after such commencement in any court, tribunal or other authority”. The Board had opposed the application for the inspection of the land as the court had not decided on the maintainability of the original suit. An interim relief in the form of the appointment of a commissioner went against the order of the Supreme Court in another case where it ruled that the trial court must decide at least prima facie on the jurisdiction before granting such relief.

The apex court took cognisance of the arguments and ordered the stay. And in doing so, it also drew attention to the vague nature of the application moved by the complainants.

It may be remembered that the Parliament passed the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act at the peak of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute seeking to pre-empt the chances of “devotees” laying claims to more places of worship of other religions while giving an exemption to the Ayodhya dispute. It will be undermining the legislative intent of the law if courts start accepting challenges to the status of a place of worship under one pretext or the other.

True, it is for the courts to decide if such a case is maintainable. However, it will be defeating the very purpose of the law to give interim reliefs to a petitioner which the court would have in normal course granted after deciding the petition in his favour. There will be interested parties who would want to precipitate the matter, especially if they have religious colour. The courts must apply the stringent standards of the law when it sees such potential is evident in cases, as the apex court has done now.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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