SC agrees to hear plea challenging Varanasi court order on Gyanvapi Mosque, refuses stay on survey

Mentioning the matter before the Chief Justice of India, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi sought status quo of the local court’s order.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed for an urgent hearing to a plea challenging a local Varanasi court’s order to continue the survey inside the Gyanvapi mosque located next to Vishwanath temple. It, however, refused to order status quo on the survey being carried out in the mosque.

Mentioning the matter before the Chief Justice of India, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi sought status quo of the local court’s order. Ahmadi contended that the mosque was covered by Places of Worship Act, 1991 where the survey has been ordered by the local court.   

CJI Ramana said he was not aware of what the issue was, as he has not seen the papers. “I don’t know anything, how can I pass an order. I’ll read and then pass orders.. let me see,” Live Law quoted the CJI as saying.

The local court had Thursday rejected a plea to replace the advocate commissioner it had appointed for conducting a videography survey of the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex here and ordered the completion of the task by May 17.

The district court also appointed two more lawyers to help the advocate commissioner carry out the survey at the mosque, which is located close to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple. It ordered police to register FIRs if there are attempts to scuttle the exercise.

The court was hearing a plea by a group of five women to allow daily worship of Hindu deities whose idols are located on an outer wall of the mosque.

The mosque management committee had opposed filming inside the mosque and also accused the court-appointed commissioner of partiality. Amid the opposition, the survey was stalled for a while.

The mosque management had said there are locks preventing access to the two basements. The court made it clear that in case the keys are not available, the locks should be broken to get the survey done.

The court has also directed the district magistrate and the police commissioner to monitor the exercise and lodge an FIR if anyone created hurdles in the survey, according to Yadav. It said the survey could be done in the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex between 8 am to 12 pm daily till its completion. The survey report should be submitted by Tuesday.

The videographic survey of the mosque was ordered on April 18, 2021 by Judge Diwakar following the plea by Delhi residents Rakhi Singh, Laxmi Devi, Sita Sahu and others. They sought permission to perform daily worship of Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman and Nandi whose idols are located on the outer wall of the mosque. They also sought a court order to stop anyone from damaging the idols.

As the filming began on May 6, a lawyer for the mosque management committee filed an application seeking Mishra’s removal, alleging that he was not working in an impartial manner. The mosque management had earlier contended that the court had not given any order to allow filming inside the mosque but to confine it up to the ‘chabutra’ (courtyard) outside the barricades enclosing the mosque premises.

The court commissioner had on Friday conducted an inconclusive survey of some areas outside the mosque in the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex, amid slogan-shouting by the two sides. Judge Diwakar had appointed Ajay Kumar Mishra as advocate commissioner on April 26 and the survey report was to be submitted initially by May 10. 

Meanwhile, the Varanasi district administration on Friday announced that the videography at the Gyanvapi Mosque will resume on Saturday. District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said he had met all stakeholders and appealed for peace. “As for the appeal before the Supreme Court, it is up to the court-appointed commissioners. We are starting the process tomorrow,” he said.

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