September 23, 2023

CJI declines to order status quo on Gyanvapi mosque survey

Image: ANI/PTI

The apex court, however, agreed to consider urgent listing of plea that challenges the ongoing videography at the mosque, located next to Kashi Vishwanath temple

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Friday said he would examine and consider listing a plea to stop the inspection, survey and videography of premises inside the Gyanvyapi mosque in Varanasi by an advocate commissioner on the orders of a local court.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, the caretakers of the mosque, requested the court, in an oral mentioning, for urgent listing of their case seeking an order of status quo.

Mr. Ahmadi said the survey was ordered despite the mosque being protected under the Places of Worship Act.

“Please order status quo,” Mr. Ahmadi requested.

“Let me look at the papers of the case… How can I pass orders now? I will read and then pass orders. We will see and list it,” the CJI addressed him.

The dispute stems from a case filed by five Hindu women in the local court. They had demanded daily access and the right to offer prayers at a Hindu site located outside the western wall of the mosque.

The court had also rejected the mosque committee’s plea to replace advocate commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra. The committee had accused him of being “biased” in favour of the Hindu plaintiffs but the court had found no merit in their argument.

The court had further appointed two more advocate commissioners — special advocate commissioner Vishal Singh and assistant advocate commissioner Ajay Pratap Singh — to assist Mr. Mishra in the videography. It had ordered the commission to complete its inspection and submit a report to the court by May 17.

The court had also given the local administration power to remove any hindrance in the way of the inspection and videography.