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Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court removes controversial Advocate Commissioner

Two-day extension granted to remaining Advocate Commissioners to submit report on survey findings

Sabrangindia 17 May 2022

Gyanvapi

On Tuesday, the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) removed Ajay Kumar Mishra as one of the Advocate Commissioners tasked to conduct a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque. This is the same Advocate Commissioner that the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), the committee that manages the Gyanvapi mosque, had claimed was biased and sought removal of last week.

The three Advocate Commissioners were to submit the survey report today, but earlier today Advocate Commissioner Ajay Pratap Singh was quoted by Business Standard as saying, “As per the orders of the court, the videography survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex took place from May 14 to May 16 from 8 am to 12 noon, and its report was to be submitted to the court. However, we are not submitting the report in the court today (Tuesday) since it is not prepared. We will seek additional time from the court, and whatever time the court gives, we will submit the report then.”

LiveLaw reported that the third Advocate Commissioner Vishal Singh moved an application before the court seeking two more days to include all facts in the report. Interestingly, the petitioners also moved an application to conduct a new survey of the premises. They want a survey of the wall that stands to the north of the Shivling and the basement area facing the statue of Nandi.

The court granted a two-day extension for submitting the report. Findings of the report were not to be made public until they were submitted to the court. But in light of the Shivling controversy, where an advocate representing the Hindu petitioners claimed a Shivling had been found in the Wazu Khana of the mosque that led the court to order that the are be sealed on Monday, today the court removed Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra for leaking information to the media.

Brief background of the case

The Gyanvapi mosque has been in the eye of the storm as it was built after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb razed a portion of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, many claim that the mosque was built using the temple’s debris. Hardline Hindutva groups, feeling particularly empowered in wake of the Ayodhya dispute verdict, have been demanding that the mosque land be given back to the temple authorities. A slew of petitions has been filed over the last two years.

One such petition was filed in August 2021, five women, one of whom has since withdrawn her name from the case. They had moved the Civil Court (Senior Division), demanding that the Maa Shringar Gauri Temple be reopened, and people be allowed to offer prayers before the idols that are still kept there. The petitioners cited the right to practice one’s faith and religious freedom guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.

On April 8, 2022, Civil Judge (Senior Division), Varanasi, Ravi Kumar Diwakar had appointed Advocate Commissioner Ajai Kumar to carry out the survey and asked him to submit a report at the next hearing on May 10. It is noteworthy that this is distinct from the survey by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), as that was stayed by the Allahabad High Court. The authorities began conducting the video survey on May 5.

But the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the mosque management authority, opposed this and moved court. However, their petition against the survey was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court on April 21. The lower court in Varanasi, on April 26, then again passed an order to carry out the survey, though now it appears that there was some ambiguity about where the survey could be conducted, specifically if it could be conducted inside the temple that is located on mosque land that is a Wakf property. The mosque authorities raised concerns as they claim this violates the principle of non-retrogression under the Places of Worship Act. But the petitioners say the same law would be applicable if it is discovered that there was originally a temple on the mosque and therefore the survey is important.

The AIM opposed videography inside the mosque and also alleged that Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar was “biased”. They moved court again on May 7. Hearings took place on May 10 and 11 following which the court ordered on May 12 that while it will not replace or remove Ajay Kumar as Advocate Commissioner, it will appoint two more Advocate Commissioners to conduct the survey and submit a report by May 17. The court said, “The survey will be conducted in Gyanvapi mosque and the entire barricaded area. Authorities will photograph and videograph the area. District authorities are ordered to open/break the lock of the basement and allow videography there as well.”

The survey ended on Monday, May 16, when the Shivling controversy broke out. An advocate representing the Hindu petitioners in the case moved an application before the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) saying that a Shivling, a stone sculpture considered holy by Hindus, was discovered on the premises. Responding to the application, the judge immediately ordered the area sealed.

While advocate Vishnu Jain claimed the Shivling was found in a well, another advocate Madan Mohan Yadav claimed it was facing Nandi (a statue of a holy cow). Details of the survey’s findings were to be submitted to the court by May 17 and have not been made public so far. In fact, when India Today probed the videographer, he simply said that he was not allowed to divulge any details.

The Indian Express quoted an excerpt of the order passed by Judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar as saying, “District Magistrate, Varanasi, is directed to immediately seal the place where the Shivling has been found. No person should be allowed to enter the place which will be sealed. The responsibility for the security and custodianship of the place which will be sealed will be considered personally of Varanasi district magistrate, Varanasi police commissioner and the CRPF commandant, Varanasi.”

Responsibility was placed on the Director General of Police (DGP) of Uttar Pradesh, and the Chief Secretary of the state to supervise the sealing.  

Meanwhile, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the mosque management authority, moved the Supreme Court demanding a stay on the survey and other orders that they say are in violation of the Places of Worship Act, according to which, the character of a religious structure cannot be altered from what it was on August 15, 1947.

Related:

Shivling ‘found’ on Gyanvapi mosque premises, court orders area sealed

Gyanvapi case: Two more advocate commissioners added to Shringar Gauri survey team

Gyanvapi case: Court to pronounce order in Shringar Gauri temple survey matter today

Gyanvapi case: One out of five withdrawing name from Maa Shringar Gauri temple petition?

Gyanvapi case: Videographic survey of Maa Shringar Gauri temple begins

Gyanvapi case: Allahabad HC stays ASI survey, proceedings before lower court

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court to hear petition to hold prayers in Shringar Gauri temple

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court removes controversial Advocate Commissioner

Two-day extension granted to remaining Advocate Commissioners to submit report on survey findings

Gyanvapi

On Tuesday, the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) removed Ajay Kumar Mishra as one of the Advocate Commissioners tasked to conduct a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque. This is the same Advocate Commissioner that the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), the committee that manages the Gyanvapi mosque, had claimed was biased and sought removal of last week.

The three Advocate Commissioners were to submit the survey report today, but earlier today Advocate Commissioner Ajay Pratap Singh was quoted by Business Standard as saying, “As per the orders of the court, the videography survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex took place from May 14 to May 16 from 8 am to 12 noon, and its report was to be submitted to the court. However, we are not submitting the report in the court today (Tuesday) since it is not prepared. We will seek additional time from the court, and whatever time the court gives, we will submit the report then.”

LiveLaw reported that the third Advocate Commissioner Vishal Singh moved an application before the court seeking two more days to include all facts in the report. Interestingly, the petitioners also moved an application to conduct a new survey of the premises. They want a survey of the wall that stands to the north of the Shivling and the basement area facing the statue of Nandi.

The court granted a two-day extension for submitting the report. Findings of the report were not to be made public until they were submitted to the court. But in light of the Shivling controversy, where an advocate representing the Hindu petitioners claimed a Shivling had been found in the Wazu Khana of the mosque that led the court to order that the are be sealed on Monday, today the court removed Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra for leaking information to the media.

Brief background of the case

The Gyanvapi mosque has been in the eye of the storm as it was built after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb razed a portion of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, many claim that the mosque was built using the temple’s debris. Hardline Hindutva groups, feeling particularly empowered in wake of the Ayodhya dispute verdict, have been demanding that the mosque land be given back to the temple authorities. A slew of petitions has been filed over the last two years.

One such petition was filed in August 2021, five women, one of whom has since withdrawn her name from the case. They had moved the Civil Court (Senior Division), demanding that the Maa Shringar Gauri Temple be reopened, and people be allowed to offer prayers before the idols that are still kept there. The petitioners cited the right to practice one’s faith and religious freedom guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.

On April 8, 2022, Civil Judge (Senior Division), Varanasi, Ravi Kumar Diwakar had appointed Advocate Commissioner Ajai Kumar to carry out the survey and asked him to submit a report at the next hearing on May 10. It is noteworthy that this is distinct from the survey by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), as that was stayed by the Allahabad High Court. The authorities began conducting the video survey on May 5.

But the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the mosque management authority, opposed this and moved court. However, their petition against the survey was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court on April 21. The lower court in Varanasi, on April 26, then again passed an order to carry out the survey, though now it appears that there was some ambiguity about where the survey could be conducted, specifically if it could be conducted inside the temple that is located on mosque land that is a Wakf property. The mosque authorities raised concerns as they claim this violates the principle of non-retrogression under the Places of Worship Act. But the petitioners say the same law would be applicable if it is discovered that there was originally a temple on the mosque and therefore the survey is important.

The AIM opposed videography inside the mosque and also alleged that Advocate Commissioner Ajay Kumar was “biased”. They moved court again on May 7. Hearings took place on May 10 and 11 following which the court ordered on May 12 that while it will not replace or remove Ajay Kumar as Advocate Commissioner, it will appoint two more Advocate Commissioners to conduct the survey and submit a report by May 17. The court said, “The survey will be conducted in Gyanvapi mosque and the entire barricaded area. Authorities will photograph and videograph the area. District authorities are ordered to open/break the lock of the basement and allow videography there as well.”

The survey ended on Monday, May 16, when the Shivling controversy broke out. An advocate representing the Hindu petitioners in the case moved an application before the court of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) saying that a Shivling, a stone sculpture considered holy by Hindus, was discovered on the premises. Responding to the application, the judge immediately ordered the area sealed.

While advocate Vishnu Jain claimed the Shivling was found in a well, another advocate Madan Mohan Yadav claimed it was facing Nandi (a statue of a holy cow). Details of the survey’s findings were to be submitted to the court by May 17 and have not been made public so far. In fact, when India Today probed the videographer, he simply said that he was not allowed to divulge any details.

The Indian Express quoted an excerpt of the order passed by Judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar as saying, “District Magistrate, Varanasi, is directed to immediately seal the place where the Shivling has been found. No person should be allowed to enter the place which will be sealed. The responsibility for the security and custodianship of the place which will be sealed will be considered personally of Varanasi district magistrate, Varanasi police commissioner and the CRPF commandant, Varanasi.”

Responsibility was placed on the Director General of Police (DGP) of Uttar Pradesh, and the Chief Secretary of the state to supervise the sealing.  

Meanwhile, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM), which is the mosque management authority, moved the Supreme Court demanding a stay on the survey and other orders that they say are in violation of the Places of Worship Act, according to which, the character of a religious structure cannot be altered from what it was on August 15, 1947.

Related:

Shivling ‘found’ on Gyanvapi mosque premises, court orders area sealed

Gyanvapi case: Two more advocate commissioners added to Shringar Gauri survey team

Gyanvapi case: Court to pronounce order in Shringar Gauri temple survey matter today

Gyanvapi case: One out of five withdrawing name from Maa Shringar Gauri temple petition?

Gyanvapi case: Videographic survey of Maa Shringar Gauri temple begins

Gyanvapi case: Allahabad HC stays ASI survey, proceedings before lower court

Gyanvapi case: Varanasi court to hear petition to hold prayers in Shringar Gauri temple

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