Shringar Gauri worship hearing to go on, Gyanvapi plea rejected | India News – Times of India

VARANASI: The court of the Varanasi district judge on Monday held as maintainable a suit filed by five Hindu women seeking the right to daily worship of the Goddess Shringar Gauri and other “visible and invisible” deities in the Gyanvapi mosque complex. It said the 1991 Places of Worship Act cited by the custodians of the shrine to challenge the plea wasn’t a bar in this case as the plaintiffs never asked for the mosque to be converted into a temple.
“According to the plaintiffs, they worshipped Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Hanuman at the disputed place regularly even after 15th August, 1947… (hence) the suit of the plaintiffs is not barred by Section 9 of the Act,” district judge A K Vishvesha said, rejecting Anjuman Intezamia Masajid’s petition challenging the maintainability of the suit.

The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, is a piece of legislation meant to prohibit conversion of any place of worship, and to provide for the maintenance of its religious character as it existed on August 15, 1947.
Vishvesha, who took over the case from the civil judge (senior division) on the Supreme Court’s orders, will start hearing the original plea on September 22. Merajuddin Siddiqui, counsel for the Gyanvapi mosque management, said his client would move the Allahabad high court against the district judge’s verdict.

The 26-page order came within 10 minutes of the start of Monday’s hearing, triggering scenes of jubilation among the plaintiffs and their lawyers. Sohan Lal Arya, husband of one of the five plaintiffs, had last month reported a death threat from an unidentified caller using a Pakistan number. In June, there was a threat to former civil judge (senior division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar, who had ordered the Gyanvapi mosque survey that led to a purported shivling being found in the ablution pond of the shrine.
District judge Vishvesha asked the Gyanvapi management to file a written statement against the salient points of the Hindu side’s suit on September 22. Applications filed by several others to become party to the case are to be taken up the same day.

Lawyer Maan Bahadur Singh, representing Delhi-based plaintiff Rakhi Singh, said the district court’s order vindicates his client’s stand that none among the relevant laws governing places of worship — including the Waqf Act and the Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act of 1983 — was a bar to the Shringar Gauri suit.
“This was never a case of Hindu vs Muslim,” said the lawyer. “Rituals for the deities that were worshipped daily at the site till 1993 had been stopped under restrictions clamped by the UP government. Our suit is restricted to this aspect.”
Vishnu Jain, counsel for the four Varanasi-based plaintiffs — Laxmi Devi, Sita Sahu, Manju Vyas and Rekha Pathak — said the district judge’s order marks a return to the issue at hand.

The original petition had been filed in the court of the civil judge (senior division) in August 2021, leading to a court-mandated survey of the Gyanvapi premises this April. The Gyanvapi management challenged the survey in the Allahabad high court, but the plea was turned down. A court-appointed commission started the survey on May 6 amid protests.
On May 16, the last day of the survey, the plaintiffs and their lawyers claimed a shivling had been found in the ablution pond of the mosque. The civil judge promptly ordered that the pond area be sealed.
A day after the survey report was submitted on May 19, the custodians of Gyanvapi moved the Supreme Court, leading to the transfer of the suit to the district judge. The three-judge bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant and PS Narasimha observed that the Places of Worship Act “does not bar ascertainment of the religious character of a place of worship”.



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