SC won’t interfere with survey order, transfers Gyanvapi Mosque case to District Judge
New Delhi, May 20: The Supreme Court has transferred the Gyanvapi Mosque suit to the District Judge of Varanasi. The case was being heard by the Civil Judge who had directed the survey of the Mosque.
Having regards to complexities involved in civil suit & the sensitivity we are of the view that the suit before the Judge, Varanasi should be tried before a senior and experienced judicial officer of UP Higher Judicial Service. We accordingly order and direct that the Civil Suit before Civil Judge Senior Division Varanasi shall stand transferred to District Judge Varanasi and all interlocutory applications shall stand transferred. The application filed under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC shall be decided on priority by the District Judge. The interim order dated May 17 of this Court shall continue in operation till O 7 R 11 is decided and for a period of 8 weeks thereafter," the Bench said.
"Unless adequate arrangements for observance of wuzu has been made by the District Magistrate, we request the District Magistrate, in consultation with the parties, to make appropriate arrangements for the observance. The order which was passed by the CJ, Senior Division, Varanasi on May 16, 2022 shall stand subsumed by the terms of the orders of this court dated May 17 pending further orders," the Bench also said.
The SC orally said that the process of determination of religious character of a place of worship is not prohibited under the Protection of Places of Worship Act.
The District Judge will decide the Mosque committee's plea that the suit is not maintainable, the court also said. Until such time, the interim order protecting the 'Shivling' area and free access to Muslims to offer namaz must continue, the court further noted.
The SC also said that the the District Judge would decide on the matter on priority the Mosque management committee's plea that the suit is not maintainable because of the bar under the Protection of Places of Worship Act.
The Bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, S Kant and P Narasimha said that there is a need to maintain calm on the ground and not allow nerves to be frayed with selective leaks of the local commisioner's report. Only the trial court judge can open the report, the Bench said.
The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal filed agains the order of the Varanasi court which had ordered a videographed survey of the complex, where it had been reported this week that a 'Shivling' had been found. Earlier the survey report had been submitted in the Varanasi court in a sealed cover.
In the Supreme Court, the Hindu plaintiffs sought adjournment till Friday on the ground that their lead counsel Hari Shankar Jain was unwell. The mosque management committee today sought the suspension of the proceedings before the Varanasi trial court. The counsel, Huzefa Ahmadi said that now an application had been moved before the Varanasi court seeking demolition of a wall.
On Tuesday, the SC had issued notice on pleas challenging the orders of a district court regarding the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, and had passed an interim order that while the area within the mosque where an alleged Shivling was said to be found should be protected, Muslims must not be restricted from entering and praying in the mosque.
The mosque is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple and the local court is hearing a plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily prayers before the idols on its outer walls.
However, a mosque management committee member disputed the claim, saying the object was part of the water fountain mechanism at the wazookhana reservoir where devotees carry out ablutions before offering namaz.
Anjuman Intezamiya Masjid Committee joint secretary Syed Mohammad Yasin had claimed that the mosque management was not heard before Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar issued the order.
In his order on Thursday last, District Civil Judge Diwakar had turned down a plea by the mosque committee to replace Ajay Kumar Mishra, who was appointed advocate commissioner by the court to survey the Gyanvapi-Gauri Shringar complex.
The judge also appointed two more advocates to help the court commissioner with the survey and said it should be completed by Tuesday.
The Supreme Court had on Friday last refused to grant an interim order of status quo on the survey.
The top court, however, agreed to consider listing the plea of a Muslim party against the survey.
Three court-appointed advocate commissioners, five lawyers each from the two sides and an assistant besides a videography team carried out the survey.