New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday declined to immediately stop the survey of Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, saying the matter would have to be considered in due course.
Seeking an urgent intervention from Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana, senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi pleaded for a status quo in the case pending before the Varanasi civil court, which on Thursday directed a day-to-day survey of a mosque to inspect, conduct videography and collect evidence regarding the alleged existence of Hindu deities inside the mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
“A survey has been directed in relation to the Varanasi property. This is covered under the Places of Worship Act. Now, the court has ordered a court commissioner to conduct a survey. This has been a mosque since time immemorial,” Ahmadi submitted.
The senior lawyer, who appeared for Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee that manages the Gyanvapi mosque, pressed for an order of the status quo.
But the CJI responded: “We have not seen the papers. We don’t even know what is the matter. I don’t know anything…how can I pass an order. I will read and then pass orders…let me see.”
In a suit filed jointly by five Hindu women, the Varanasi court last month ordered an inspection of the premises through advocate commissioner Ajai Kumar Mishra. The civil court order was affirmed by the Allahabad high court on April 26.
The women asked for year-long access to pray at a shrine behind the western wall of the mosque complex. The site is currently opened for prayers once a year. The women also want permission to pray to other “visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex”.
Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee filed a plea before the civil court to remove the advocate commissioner. A day ago, the civil court ordered a full survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque complex, rejecting the demands of the mosque management to limit the inquiry to certain parts of the precincts and remove the present surveyor.
The judge retained Mishra as the advocate commissioner, who was appointed last month to carry out the survey while adding two more lawyers, Vishal Singh and Ajay Pratap Singh, to the commission that will inspect, and conduct videography and collect evidence regarding the alleged existence of Hindu deities. It directed Mishra and Vishal Singh to conduct the survey.
In its order, the civil judge clarified that the advocate commissioners will have the right to collect evidence from any part of the mosque complex and that no hindrance shall be caused by anyone in the conduct of this exercise.
Making Varanasi district magistrate and police commissioner personally accountable, the court directed that the district administration and the police must render all cooperation to the advocate commissioners and ascertain that the survey is completed as soon as possible. It ordered that the district officials and police be authorised to break open any lock if required.
“If anybody creates impediment in the exercise by the court commissioners, the district administration must register a first information report (FIR) and take strict action. In any condition, the court commissioner’s exercise shall not stop,” said the court order, seeking the commission’s report on May 17.
In its order, the civil judge also pulled up the Varanasi district administration for not complying with the court’s order in letter and spirit. It added the survey would have been concluded by now had the district administration rendered its full cooperation.