New Delhi: In a significant development Tuesday, the Supreme Court directed the District Magistrate of Varanasi to ensure protection of area inside the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex where ‘Shivling’ is said to be found in the survey. The Supreme Court also allowed Muslims to offer ‘Namaz’ and perform ‘religious observances’ inside the mosque.
“Balancing the equity,” a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and PS Narasimha said, while hearing a plea of the Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masjid which manages Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi. The bench passed the order and refused to stay the ongoing proceedings before the lower court.
The bench said it needed to balance the rights of contesting parties. It clarified that the order of the civil judge (senior division), hearing the plea of petitioner Hindu devotees, directing authorities to ensure the protection of the area would not restrict and impede the rights of Muslim to offer Namaz and to perform religious observances.
“This is an interim arrangement till counsel for the plaintiff is here. We need to balance the rights of contesting parties. The order of May 16, 2022, to the extent that DM, Varanasi shall ensure the protection of area where ‘Shivling’ is said to be found will not impede upon the rights of the Muslims to offer ‘Namaz’ and perform ‘religious observances’, the Supreme Court bench said in its order.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the Gyanvapi mosque committee, said the Muslims need to perform ‘wazu’ or ablution as without that ‘namaz’ would have no meaning under Islam.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, submitted though he is not a party to the civil suit the place where ‘Shivling’ is said to be found is a place where Muslims perform ‘wazu’ and any damage may create a law and order problem.
“They can perform ‘wazu’ somewhere else if it is necessary but the area where Shivling is said to be found needs protection,” the law officer said.
The top court was informed by the solicitor general that the plaintiff’s lawyer Hari Shankar Jain had suffered some cardiac issues and was hospitalized in Varanasi.
Ahmadi said that a series of orders, which are unconstitutional, has been passed by the civil judge. The latest of which was passed Monday ordering the sealing of the area on an application by Jain in the ex-parte proceedings in which the survey report was yet to be filed. He said since the top court is now seized of the matter, the entire proceedings before the civil judge needed to be stayed.
The bench, however, refused to stay the further proceedings before the civil judge and said, ‘any judicial officer would understand the meaning of our orders. We don’t need to stay it’.
The clarification was given by the top court after Ahmadi pointed out that the impugned order in the opening paragraph says that the application filed by Jain (plaintiff) is allowed and had also issued specific direction to seal the area where the ‘Shivling’ is said to be found and restrict the entry of Muslims to 20 and direction to CRPF commandant to provide protection to the premises.
Ahmadi said the order impugned is an order passed in a civil lawsuit where prayers were made to allow the plaintiff and others to worship and a declaration about the place.
“The prayer categorically speaks about changing the status quo of the religious structure which is a Mosque since time immemorial. This suit is barred as per the act of Parliament passed in 1991 but despite that, it was entertained and a series of orders were passed by the trial court including the appointment of court commissioner,” Ahmadi pointed out.