Supreme Court in hurry to hear Gyanvapi Disputes, listed before Justice Chandrachud’s Courtroom

NEW DELHI: Justice NV Ramana on Friday directed its registry to list the Gyanvapi dispute case before Justice Chandrachud to hear. This comes after a senior counsel Huzefa Ahmadi approaches the apex court against the order of Allahabad High Court allowing a court appointed commissioner to inspect and conduct a videography of Gyanvapi structure which was claimed by Hindu community, alleging it was a temple before shaping as mosque during Mugal Raj.

“One has to bear in mind that the Ayodhya verdict was unanimous, therefore, the opinion cited in the judgement regarding the Places of Worship Act was also unanimous. This essentially means that Justice Chandrachud believes that the Places of Worship Act is sacrosanct and is essential to maintain the secular nature of the Constitution of India.”

The petitioners have claimed that there are deities such as Maa Gauri, Lord Ganesh and Hanuman etc at the site and that Hindus should be allowed to enter the site and offer their prayers and perform pooja and offer bhog to their deities.

They also claimed that Hindu deities should be allowed to be worshipped at the site. The lower court had appointed a court commissioner to conduct a survey and videography of the site.

The civil judge after hearing the contentions had passed an order on August 18, 2021 appointing an advocate commissioner. The judge had also ordered the commissioner to visit the site and inspect and collect evidence as to whether the deities exist at the site.

The commissioner was further given liberty to seek police force assistance in case of any disturbance or resistance to collection of evidence by virtue of videography.

The same was defied before Allahabad High Court which dismissed the appeal on April 21 this year. Subsequently, the Masajid Committee of Anjuman Intezamia Masajid filed a plea before the lower court claiming that the court commissioner was biased and should be replaced. However, the same was dismissed by the court and asked administration to let this be done.

Much More Evidence Emerged Than We Dad Imagined; Claimed Hindu Body

The disputed structure at the Gyanvapi in Varanasi was surveyed on Saturday May 14 2022, following the court’s order. Jitendra Singh Bisen, head of the Vishwa Vedic Sanatan Sangh, told the media after he came out of the structure finishing today’s round of the survey that there is a lot more seen inside the disputed structure than imagined.

The survey work in four cellars has been completed. In addition, a survey was also conducted on the western wall of the disputed structure. The survey will continue on Sunday, which has to be completed by May 17th.

It may be noted that Vishwa Vedic Sanatan Sangh is one the plaintiffs in the case demanding to pray at the Shringar Gauri Sthal, located inside the disputed mosque structure. Five women named Rakhi Singh, Laxmi Devi, Sita Sahu, Manju Vyas and Rekha Pathak Rakhi Singh have filed the petition, and among then Rakhi Singh is a founding member of Vishwa Vedic Sanatan Sangh.

Jitendra Singh Bisen said, “During the survey, some locks were opened and some had to be broken. There’s a lot remaining to survey right now. There’s so much more than I imagined. I would say that it is beyond the imagination of not only me but all. We can’t tell all the things in the media. About 40 percent survey is completed and it will continue tomorrow.”

The survey further continued for four hours as per the court’s order. At 8 AM, everyone associated with it arrived at the disputed structure. The survey was stopped at 12 noon. Plaintiff-defendant and police-administration, all parties were cooperating, and the survey was done peacefully. Lawyers said the survey report was highly confidential.

Apparently, 2 basements at the structure were surveyed today. While videography was done using special cameras, the members of the survey team were not allowed to carry mobile phones so that there is unauthorised leak of photos of the interiors. The Varanasi police commissioner and a trustee of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust were also present during the survey.

Today, more than 1,500 policemen and PAC personnel were deployed in the security of the disputed structure at the Gyanvapi complex. Also, the movement of people within 500 meters of the Gyanvapi complex was stopped. The police also restricted the movement of vehicles from Godaulia and Maidagin areas.

Days after members of the Muslim community impeded the survey, a Varanasi court on May 12 allowed a videographic survey of the disputed structure. Varanasi’s Civil Judge (Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar issued guidelines for the same and added that the survey will now be held and a report to be submitted by May 17. As per the report, it is also reported that the basement of the disputed structure has also been directed to be opened.

In the meanwhile, the Muslim side has filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to stop the survey. While the petitioners had requested to stay the process immediately, the CJI refused to do that, and the matter has been listed before Justice DY Chandrachud.

However, with the survey to be completed by 17th May and almost half of it almost completed, it is possible that the survey might by completed before the matter is taken up by the Supreme Court. It is interesting to note that while the survey will continue on Sunday also, the court will be closed on next two days, on Sunday and and then on Monday due to Buddha Purnima.

How this Case could go in the terms lets see; an argument by Nupur

The main contention of the petition is rather simple – the Supreme Court should stop the survey of the disputed Gyanvapi Mosque structure because it violates the Places of Worship Act 1991. The petitioners, before the CJI, had said, “Survey has been directed in relation to Varanasi property. This is covered by Places of Worship Act. Now the Court has ordered Commissioner to conduct a survey”. CJI first remarked with “let me see” according to reports. Later, he said that he does not know what the case is and has not gone through the papers. It was after this that the CJI had ordered the listing of the special leave petition before a bench presided by Justice Chandrachud.

It is important to note that while we refer to the Gyanvapi Mosque as a “disputed structure”, the existence of a Hindu temple is visible to the naked eye. Besides that, several eyewitnesses have said; the existence of Hindu symbols on the premises of the disputed structure. The former Mahant of the Kashi-Vishwanath temple has said, “There are Bhagwan Vishnu, Mata Lakshmi and even the wheel of Buddhists etc., engraved on the Pillars. When I saw it back then, there used to be a coal shop at that time. The woman who ran the shop used to make food and then sell it to the customers.”

He further added, “The government tried to keep this temple safe in any way possible, so they got barricading done all around this temple. They [Muslims] say that the masjid is theirs. But those who offer namaz in the masjid, have forcibly occupied the premises. They come in large numbers to offer prayers and try to show the power of their community. I am sure that there is a temple. They are not allowing us to go to the basement because of their anarchy and polluted thinking.”

Another eyewitness, Ram Das Khatri, said, “It was a temple before. There is no doubt about it. The temple has been forcefully snatched from us (Hindus). This temple is of Hindus. You can clearly see that it is Mata Gauri, whom we call Shringar Gauri as well.”

Therefore, it is safe to say that there is no dispute regarding the fact that a Hindu temple, visible to the naked eye, existed where the disputed Gyanvapi Mosque structure stands today, destroyed by Islamic invaders.

In the light of this, the petition by Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee becomes incredibly important, since if the survey of the disputed structure is halted, the reclamation of the Kashi temple comes into question.

Given that this petition is listed before Justice DY Chandrachud, one could perhaps make a calculated guess as to how the case would proceed. During the Ram Janmabhoomi verdict, the 5 Judge bench had included a long-winded unanimous opinion on the Places of Worship Act, 1991. The 5 Judges who unanimously passed the verdict included Justice DY Chandrachud.”

The decision to address the Places of Worship Act, 1991 in the Ram Janmabhoomi verdict was widely criticised by lawyers. Advocate J Sai Deepak had penned an article at the time in the New Indian Express detailing how the RJB verdict was beyond the scope of the Act and therefore, there was no need to discuss the act at all.

The appeals before the Supreme Court arose from the 2010 judgment of a three-Judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court delivered in a batch of title suits over the then-disputed land in Ayodhya. The PoW Act, on the other hand, is a statute designed to “prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August 1947…”.

Pertinently, Section 5 of the said Act expressly exempts the legal proceedings in relation to Shri Ramjanmabhoomi from the application of the Act. This is recognised by the Supreme Court itself in Paragraph 80 of the Ayodhya judgment. In light of this, there was no need for the court to discuss the Act in the context of Shri Ramjanmabhoomi. And yet, the court deemed it fit to discuss the Act in over 10 pages, with the central thrust of its deliberation being “the Constitution’s commitment to secularism”. Sai Deepak argues here..

The central focus of the Places of Worship Act, 1991 was to ensure that Temples, Mosques, Churches etc maintain their character as it was on the 15th of August 1947. So, if a Temple was destroyed by the Mughals and a Mosque was built in its place, the Places of Worship Act essentially said that the Mosque should continue to maintain its character and can’t be turned back into a Temple.

The Ayodhya judgement unanimously said that the Act had two purposes:

  1. “First, it prohibits the conversion of any place of worship. In doing so, it speaks to the future by mandating that the character of a place of public worship shall not be altered”, the judgement had said. The court further said that Section 3 of the Act prohibits the change of a place of worship “into a place of worship of a different religious denomination or of a different segment of the same religious denomination”.
  2. The law “seeks to impose a positive obligation to maintain the religious character of every place of worship as it existed on 15 August 1947 when India achieved independence from colonial rule”. 

Invoking mythical “secularism”, the 5 judge bench in the Ayodhya verdict also said that the Act seeks to maintain the “secular character of the constitution of India”.

“The law is hence a legislative instrument designed to protect the secular features of the Indian polity, which is one of the basic features of the Constitution”, the court said, adding that “non-retrogression is a foundational feature of the fundamental constitutional principles of which secularism is a core component”.

Criticising the demolition of the illegal structure called Babri, the court said, “Historical wrongs cannot be remedied by the people taking the law in their own hands”.

Essentially, in its judgement, the Supreme Court unanimously said that the Places of Worship Act is sacrosanct and then also chastised the event where “law was taken into their own hands” since that cannot remedy historical wrongs, leaving Hindus with no option, legal or otherwise.