SC to hear on April 1 Gyanvapi committee's plea

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on April 1 a Gyanvapi mosque management committee’s plea against an Allahabad High Court decision upholding a lower court’s order allowing Hindu prayers in the southern cellar of the mosque. A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra will hear the plea of Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee, which manages the affairs of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, challenging the HC’s February 26 decision.

The high court had dismissed the committee’s plea in which it had challenged the district court’s January 31 order allowing Hindus to offer prayers in the cellar.

While dismissing the plea of the mosque committee on February 26, the high court had observed that the Uttar Pradesh government’s 1993 decision of stopping worship rituals inside the “Vyas Tehkhana” — located at the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi — was “illegal”.

It had said that the worship rituals were stopped by “illegal action of the state without there being any order in writing” and rejected two appeals filed by the mosque management committee challenging the Varanasi district judge’s January 17 order — that appointed the district magistrate as the receiver of the “Vyas Tehkhana” — and the January 31 order by which the judge allowed ‘puja’ to be performed there.

The high court ordered that worship will continue in the “Vyas Tehkhana” of the mosque, which stands adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

A survey conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on the court’s order had suggested that the Gyanvapi mosque was constructed during Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s rule over the remains of a Hindu temple.

The district court had ruled on January 31 that a Hindu priest can perform prayers before the idols in the southern cellar of the mosque.

The prayers are now being conducted by a Hindu priest nominated by the Kashi Vishwanath temple trust and petitioner Shailendra Kumar Pathak, who claimed that his maternal grandfather Somnath Vyas, also a priest, offered prayers in the cellar till December 1993.

He had said puja was stopped during the tenure of then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav after the Babri masjid in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992.

During the hearing before the trial court, the Muslim side had contested the petitioner’s version. It had said no idols existed in the cellar and hence, there was no question of prayers being offered there till 1993.

The Muslim side had also countered the petitioner’s claim that the basement was under his grandfather’s control.

The petitioner had claimed that his family had the control of the cellar even during the British rule.

Harry Byrne

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