Three months after a Varanasi court permitted a survey of the Gyan Vapi Mosque – Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the committee that runs the mosque has withdrawn an appeal against the order from the court that passed the order, and chosen to pursue the matter in the Allahabad High Court instead.
Speaking to SabrangIndia, S M Yasin, general secretary of the Anjuman Intizamiya Masjid (AIM) said, “Our appeal hadn’t even been admitted by the lower court yet, even though three months had gone by. Meanwhile, one hearing took place in the Allahabad High Court after we filed an appeal there in July. But we were told the same appeal cannot be pursued in two courts, so we decided to withdraw the appeal from the lower court.”
On April 8, 2021, a Varanasi civil judge (senior division) Ashutosh Tiwari allowed ASI to conduct a survey, the cost of which is to be borne by the Uttar Pradesh government. The order was passed in connection with a plea filed by local lawyer VS Rastogi in December 2019, who demanded that the land upon which the mosque was constructed be returned to Hindus.
The permission for an ASI survey brought back memories of a similar survey that was carried out in connection with the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. The order was also seen as controversial because the Allahabad High Court had reserved its judgment in the wider case.
Speaking to SabrangIndia, SM Yasin had at that time said, “The Allahabad High Court had given a stay order, meaning a hearing could not be conducted in the case. But the lower court still conducted hearings in the case. The judge also shot down our request for the case to be presented before the Waqf tribunal.”
“Between January 18 and March 12 arguments were on in the High Court in connection with the stay order case by all parties including the Sunni Central Board and the Anjuman Intazamia Masjid. The judgment was reserved and was expected after April 5, but there was a lockdown due to Covid,” he explained. “On April 6, we moved another application before the High Court requesting that the lower court be restrained from delivering any order in the case while the High Court judgement remained reserved and this application was to be heard on April 9. But the hearing could not take place, perhaps due to Covid. Meanwhile, the lower court went ahead and passed its order,” he said.
The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board then moved an urgent petition before the Allahabad High Court against the order of the trial court. The Waqf Board’s 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 Pandia reserved its order on March 15.
Another application has been moved by Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM) 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 states 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.”
The next hearing of the case is scheduled to take place on August 17, 2021 at the Allahabad High Court.
This story first appeared on sabrangindia.in