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Post-Babri, SC to hear petition today against survey at Gyanvapi mosque | India News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: After deciding the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, the Supreme Court will on Tuesday legally grapple with a potential Ayodhya-type dispute at its nascent stage when it hears a mosque management committee’s plea challenging an order from a Varanasi court directing a survey at the Gyanvapi mosque.
Five Hindu women, led by Rakhi Singh, through advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain had moved a Varanasi civil judge seeking unhindered right to worship goddess Shringar Devi and other deities inside Gyanvapi mosque, which was earlier the original Kashi-Vishwanath temple but converted into a mosque by the then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. On their plea, the trial court had on April 8 last year ordered appointment of an advocate commissioner for local inspection and survey of the property.
This was challenged by the Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masjid ,Varanasi, before the Allahabad HC on the ground that a similar suit in 1991 had sought inspection by the Archaeological Survey of India. This survey by the ASI was stayed by the HC. But the HC refused to interfere in the appointment of an advocate commissioner for local survey of the mosque. The Anjuman then moved the Supreme Court challenging the HC decision not to stay the ongoing survey.
By the time a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and P S Narasimha on Tuesday take up Anjman’s petition challenging the appointment of advocate commissioner for Gyanvapi mosque, the exercise for local inspection and survey of the sealed disputed structure would have been completed. The petitioners have cited the Places of Worship Act, 1991, and the Ayodhya judgment to impress upon the SC that the character of no other disputed religious structure could be changed.
Interestingly, a bench headed by then CJI S A Bobde, who was part of the unanimous November 2019 Ayodhya judgment, had on March 12, 2021 issued notices to ministries of home affairs, law and culture seeking their responses to a PIL by Ashwini Upadhaya challenging the validity of several provisions of the 1991 Act.
Upadhyay in his PIL said the Centre through the 1991 Act had created an arbitrary and irrational retrospective cut-off date of August 15, 1947 for maintaining the character of religious places and barred filing of any suit in court in respect of “disputes against encroachment done by fundamentalist barbaric invaders and law breakers” and all pending suits in this regard shall stand abated. The 1991 Act had made a lone exception for the Ayodhya land dispute case as it had been festering for centuries.
The 1991 Act was enacted by Congress’s Narasimha Rao government to counter a campaign started by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for the control of the disputed sites of Babri masjid in Ayodhya, Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and Shahi idgah in Mathura. VHP had argued that Islamic places of worship at these sites were built after demolishing Hindu temples and, hence, should be handed back to Hindus.
A similar PIL filed by an association of priests through advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain seeking scrapping of the 1991 law, ostensibly to revive litigation on the disputed religious sites at Mathura (Krishna Janmasthan) and Varanasi (Kashi-Vishwanath temple-mosque complex), is also pending with the court.
This plea had evoked a sharp reaction from Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, which had moved the SC terming this a surreptitious attempt to correct historical wrongs and warned that it was fraught with the risk of unleashing a barrage of litigation.
In its 1,045-page Ayodhya judgment, the SC had referred to the 1991 Act and said, “In providing a guarantee for preservation of the religious character of places of public worship as they existed on August 15, 1947 and against the conversion of places of public worship, Parliament determined that independence from colonial rule furnishes a constitutional basis for healing the injustices of the past by providing the confidence to every religious community that their places of worship will be preserved and that their character will not be altered.”





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