Kashi Vishwanath – Gyanvapi case a national dispute: Deity’s next friend to HC

Lord Vishweshwar’s next friend tells Allahabad High Court that emotions of millions are involved

Allahabad HCImage Courtesy:akystudy.com

In fresh developments in connection with the dispute involving the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque adjacent to it, Advocate Vijay Shankar Rastogi, who has been appointed next friend of the deity Lord Vishweshwar has termed it to be a “national dispute” because “emotions of millions of people” are attached to it, reported LiveLaw.

The Allahabad HC Bench of Justice Prakash Padia was hearing the matter in connection with a plea moved by the Anjuman Intezamia Masajid (AIM), the organisation that looks after the Gyanvapi mosque. The AIM had moved a plea before the Allahabad High Court last year seeking a stay on the proceedings in a lower court in Varanasi.

Calling the case a “national dispute” alienates Indian Muslims

Reacting to the terming of the case as a “national dispute”, S M Yasin, general secretary of Masjid (AIM), told SabrangIndia, “When the Ayodhya judgment came, we Muslims accepted it peacefully and hoped there will be no further instances of communal disputes. We want everyone to live in harmony. But now it appears that everything we say is going to be dubbed a ‘national dispute’. This is completely unwarranted.”

But that’s not all. According to LiveLaw, Advocate Rastogi further argued that the decision in the Ayodhya dispute has increased the importance of the present case. This is chilling given how a lower court’s order for an ASI survey, interestingly in connection with a plea by Advocate Rastogi himself, had brought back memories of the Ayodhya case, where a similar survey was ordered.

Brief background

For decades, the land dispute between the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque has been fodder for controversy and hate mongering by right wing supremacist groups, not very unlike the Ayodhya dispute. In fact, in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, disturbing communal slogans like, “Ayodhya ek jhaanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai,” (Translation: Ayodhya was just a teaser, Kashi and Mathura are still left) were chanted with much vigour by right-wing groups across India.

It is alleged that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had razed the temple in 1664 and the mosque was built on its ruins using the temple’s debris. Hostilities simmered over time and the dispute went to court when the title suit was filed in 1991. The two parties in this case were Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust (KVMT) and the Anjuman Intazamia Masajid (AIM). But back then, the Allahabad High Court had imposed a temporary stay on hearings in the case via an order dated October 13, 1998.

However, on February 4, 2020, a local court decided to commence hearings in the case stating that the HC’s order had not been extended within six months with a separate order, and that therefore the stay was deemed to have been vacated. In March 2020, the Allahabad High Court had stayed the Varanasi court’s order to commence hearing and ordered that the stay be maintained.

Advocate Rastogi’s case in a lower court

In December 2019, Advocate VS Rastogi had filed a plea in a Varanasi court demanding that the land upon which the mosque was constructed be returned to Hindus. In fact, on April 8, 2021, in connection with this plea, Ashutosh Tiwari, Civil Judge (Senior Division) had passed an order permitting a survey by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). But on September 9, 2021, the Allahabad HC bench of Justice Padia had stayed the order passed by the lower court regarding the ASI survey.

SabrangIndia had previously reported that the matter pertaining to the wider dispute regading the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque was pending before the Allahabad High Court, and that Justice Prakash Padia had reserved his order on March 15, 2021. In fact, the lower court’s order about the ASI had come even as this HC order was still pending.

Developments in the Kashi Vishwanath – Gyanvapi dispute in 2021

It may be recalled that on February 18, a suit seeking “restoration of performance of rituals at the principal seat of an Ancient Temple at the Gyanvapi mosque area” was filed before a district court. The suit stated that every citizen has a fundamental right to perform pooja, worship and rituals according to the tenets of his religion within the ambit of Article 25 and any obstacle created before January 26, 1950 has become null and void by virtue of Article 13(1). Therefore, the plea stated, “An idol worshipper cannot complete his pooja and gain spiritual advantages without having objects of worship. Any hindrance/ obstacle created in performance of pooja, is denial of right to religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.” This suit was filed by ten individuals acting as next friends of deities claimed to be existing in the mosque precincts including Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh and Lord Shiva.

It is also noteworthy that on March 11, the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Kumud Lata Tripathi had issued notice to Central government, UP government, Varanasi District Magistrate, Senior Superintendent of Police, Varanasi, UP Muslim Personal Law Board, mosque management- Anjuman Intazamia and Board of trustees of Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The court had also fixed April 2 as the date for filing written statements and April 9 for framing of issues.

Meanwhile, on March 13, BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 as it bars remedies against illegal encroachment on the places of worship and pilgrimages prior to August 15, 1947. The petition asserts that the law has created an arbitrary, irrational retrospective cut-off date and in the process has legalised the illegal acts of invaders who encroached upon religious institutions back in the day. The plea submits that the provisions of the law, particularly, section 2,3 and 4 take away rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs to reclaim their places of worship through Courts. A bench of CJI SA Bode and Justice AS Bopanna issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Culture.

Then on March 18, the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Mahendra Kumar Singh admitted a new petition related to the case. The new plea demands that an area of the Adi Vishweshwar temple, that is currently deemed ‘occupied’ by the petitioner, be freed, and that the portion of the temple that was demolished on the instructions of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, be rebuilt. The court then issued notice to the Union of India, Uttar Pradesh Government, the district administration, Varanasi SSP, UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee and Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust making them respondents in the case.

Then on April 8, Ashutosh Tiwari, Civil Judge (Senior Division) at Varanasi Civil Court passed an order permitting a survey by the ASI in connection with a December 2019 plea filed by local lawyer VS Rastogi, who demanded that the land upon which the mosque was constructed be returned to Hindus.

When the Sunni Waqf Board moved HC, counsel Puneet Kumar Gupta argued that the trial court passed the order illegally and without its jurisdiction as the matter is in the High Court and Justice Prakash Padia had reserved the order on March 15. AIM also moved an application, contending that the Civil Judge acted in the “most arbitrary manner” while passing the order to allow the ASI for undertaking a survey at the disputed site and has acted against the spirit of judicial discipline. The application stated that by passing orders despite the High Court reserving judgment in the case, the lower court acted “against the spirit of complete justice as well as the challenge to the entire suit proceeding and its authenticity.” They had also moved an application before the lower court, but withdrew the application when their appeal wasn’t admitted, even three months after the original order.


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Gyan Vapi case: Mosque administration to pursue appeal against ASI survey in HC
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