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The Gyanvapi Mosque – Kashi Vishwanath Temple Dispute

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Gyanvapi Mosque Kashi Vishwanath Temple Dispute Law Insider

Ayushi Budholia

Published on: 13 August 2022 at 21:42 IST

THE HISTORY OF THE MOSQUE

The Gyanvapi Mosque is located in Banaras, Uttar Pradesh. The present conflict between the Gyanvapi Mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath Temple can be traced to a long-complicated history.

The history comprises multiple demolitions at the site. The first demolition is said to have happened during the reign of Quttubuddin Aibak in the year 1194, after he defeated Jayachandra in the battle of Asani. The Razia Mosque was constructed in the place of the temple.

The temple was reconstructed during the reign of Iltutmish. However, after the Sharqi dynasty resurfaced in Jaunpur, the demolishing started happening. Mahumad Sharqi was responsible for the second demolition.

In the 16th century, during the reign of Akbar, the site had a Vishweshwar temple devoted to the Hindu deity Shiva. It was built by Todar Mal in conjunction with Narayana Bhatta. However, soon it became the victim of Aurangzeb’s intense religious zealotry. The temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb and a mosque was created in its place.

HOW THE DISPUTES REACHED THE COURT

The dispute between the Gyanvapi Mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath temple is not new. The origin of the legal battle between them can be traced back to 1936.

In 1936, a civil suit was filed by three Muslim petitioners who demanded that the entire complex be declared a part of the mosque. On August 15th, 1937, the right to offer Namaz in Gyanvapi was granted, explicitly stating that such prayers could be offered anywhere else in the complex.

An appeal was filed in the High Court against this decision of the lower court. In 1942, the High Court upheld the decision of the lower court and dismissed the petition.

In 1991, an original suit was filed by the devotees of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in the Court of the Civil Judge in Varanasi. The plaintiffs alleged that the mosque was constructed after destroying Lord Vishweshwar’s temple by Aurangzeb in the 16th century.

The plaintiffs argued that the Hindus had every right to use the site as a place of worship. They further argued that the defendants have no right, title, or interest of any kind and that the entire Muslim community has no right to occupy the land.

The Anjuman Intazamia Masjid, Varanasi, were the defendants in the suit. They filed a petition by citing Section 4 of the Places of Worship Act, 1991. An interim order was passed by the Allahabad High Court, staying further proceedings in respect of the 1991 suit pending in the trial court.

In February 2020, the trial court decided to continue the hearing of the original suit filed in 1991. However, it was once again stayed by a bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot of the High Court. In March 2020, the High Court reserved its judgement.

The dispute witnessed its revival when, despite the fact that the High Court had reserved its judgement, the trial court allowed the petitions of the Hindu Devotees and ordered for inspection by the Astrological Survey of India (ASI).

The trial court’s order was challenged before the High Court by the Mosque management. An amendment application was filed by them with a prayer to set aside the order passed by the Civil Judge. The High Court, through its order, stayed further proceedings of the original suit and allowed the amendment application.

The High Court observed that since the court below had full knowledge that the judgement had already been reserved by the High Court, it should not have proceeded and decided the application seeking inspection.

The plaintiffs filed an application seeking the appointment of Advocate Ajay Kumar Mishra as Advocate Commissioner to carry out the inspection. The defendants raised the objections and also moved an application seeking rejection of the plaint for being barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991. The Court rejected the objections and on April 8, 2022, appointed Adv. Ajay Kumar Mishra as the Advocate Commissioner for local inspection of the property. The High Court, in its order dated April 21, refused to interfere and allow the petitioner miscellaneous petition.

A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and PS Narasimha was set to hear the petition filed by the Committee of Management Ajnuman Intezamia Masjid Varanasi challenging the orders passed by a civil court in Varanasi for a survey of the mosque on a suit filed by a few Hindu devotees.

However, before the hearing, the Varanasi Court was told today that the court-appointed Advocate Commissioner had found Shiva Linga inside the Gyanvapi Mosque premises during the survey. Pursuant to this, the Court has ordered to seal the place or area concerned.

On May 17th, the Supreme Court heard the Special Leave Petition filed by the Committee of Management Ajnuman Intezamia Masjid Varanasi challenging the orders passed by a civil court in Varanasi for a survey of the mosque.

The Supreme Court on the Varanasi Court’s Order to seal the place where Shiva Linga was found clarified that the Order will not restrict the right of Muslims to access the mosque to offer namaz and to perform religious observances.

On the same day, the Varanasi Court ordered the removal of the Court Commissioner, Ajay Kumar Mishra, for leaking the survey information to the media. Further, the Court granted two days’ time to the remaining two commissioners to submit their Gyanvapi Mosque survey report.

After conducting the survey on May 14, 15, and 16, the report was compiled by a court-appointed commission. On May 19th, the report was submitted to the Varanasi Civil Judge (senior division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar.

The Hindu plaintiff filed a reply opposing the Special Leave Petition filed by the Masjid Committee against the orders passed by the Civil Court for survey and sealing of the mosque property. In the reply, they assert that the property was never a mosque as Aurangazeb did not create any Waqf by dedicating the property.

It had been with Adi Vishweshwar since thousands of years ago and had been forcibly taken by Aurangazeb. They further argued that Section 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act 1991 is not applicable as the religious character of the property was never changed.

The case will be next heard on May 23, 2022.

CONCLUSION

During the reign of Akbar, there was a Vishweshwar temple devoted to the Hindu deity Shiva. It was built by Todar Mal in conjunction with Narayana Bhatta. In the 16th century, the temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb. In place of that temple, the Gyanvapi Mosque was constructed.

The dispute between the Gyanvapi Mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath temple knocked on the door of the court for the first time in 1936. After this, in 1991, another suit was filed where the plaintiffs alleged that the mosque was constructed after destroying the Lord Vishweshwar’s temple by Aurangzeb in the 16th Century.

The suit witnessed its revival in 2021 when the trial court allowed the petitions of the Hindu Devotees and ordered for inspection by the Astrological Survey of India (ASI). Petitions were filed in the Allahabad High Court challenging the order of the lower court.

The Varanasi Court, on an application by the plaintiffs, appointed Adv. Ajay Kumar Mishra (who was later removed) as the Advocate Commissioner for local inspection of the property. The High Court, in its order dated April 21, refused to interfere in the lower court’s order.

The Varanasi Court was told today that the court-appointed Advocate Commissioner had found Shiva Linga inside the Gyanvapi Mosque premises during the survey. Pursuant to this, the Court has ordered to seal the place or area concerned. The report was submitted on May 19th, 2022.

The matter is now pending in the Supreme Court of India.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ayushi Budholia is a third-year, B.A.LL.B Student of Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida.

REFERENCES