The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Varanasi District Magistrate to protect the area where a "Shivling" was found at the Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath temple complex. The SC also added that Muslim devotees should not be prevented from praying at the mosque.
The SC bench led by CJI NV Ramana was hearing a petition filed by Anjuman Intezamia Masjid which had challenged a Varanasi court's order for a videography survey to be conducted at the complex.
The SC will hear the matter again on May 19.
Here's all you need to know about the Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath temple dispute
What Is The History Of The Gyanvapi Mosque?
Several historians have pointed out that the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb demolished a Vishweshwar temple and ordered the construction of a mosque in 1669.
In the 18th century, Queen Ahilyabai Holkar built the Kashi Vishwanath temple beside the mosque and the two places of worship even share a wall.
What Legal Challenges Have Been Filed?
In 1991, a petition was filed in a Varanasi court arguing that the mosque was built after Aurangzeb razed a temple built almost 2000 years ago.
The petitioners, which included a descendant of the priests of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, argued before the court that Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act didn't apply in this case as the mosque was built on remnants of a temple.
The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was passed in 1991 by the PV Narasimha Rao government and rules that any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947 shall remain as such and won't be converted.
After the Supreme Court's 2019 verdict in the Babri Masjid case, Vijay Shankar Rastogi, the lawyer who filed the 1991 plea, filed another petition in the Varanasi court asking for an ASI survey of the Gyanvapi compound which the court granted.
The court also ordered for a five-member committee to be formed which would be tasked with identifying if a Hindu temple existed before the Mosque was built.
In the process, the Varanasi court ran foul of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act.
The ruling was challenged in the Allahabad High Court. On September 9, 2021 the High Court stayed the lower court's order calling it "prima facie bad in law".
Why Is The Mosque In The News Now?
A fresh petition was filed in a Varanasi court in August 2021 by five women seeking permission to worship "Goddess Maa Shringar Gauri".
On April 8, the Varanasi court ordered a video survey of the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex and asked for the report to be submitted by May 10.
After the Allahabad High Court refused to stay the lower court's order, the Gyanvapi masjid committee approached the Supreme Court.
However, an SC bench led by CJI NV Ramana refused to stay the order on May 13 stating that it will list the matter after going through the files of the case paving the way for the survey to go ahead.
What Has The Survey Found?
The survey was undertaken under heavy security led by Court commissioner, Advocate Ajay Mishra and two other lawyers.
On Monday, a member of the survey team claimed that a Shivling was found on the temple premises. In response, Varanasi district administration Kaushal Raj Sharma termed the claim as a 'personal opinion' and asked for the survey team's report to be published.
The Varanasi civil court ordered the area where the Shivling was found to be sealed.
The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee said it will challenge the Varanasi court's order in the Supreme Court saying that the "Shivling" found on the mosque premises was a part of the fountain in the wuzukhana.
On Tuesday, the Varanasi court fired Mishra from the survey team for leaking information to the media while granting an additional two days for the survey team to submit its report.
Updated On: 2022-05-17T19:04:31+05:30