File image: Security forces outside the Gyanvapi mosque complex on May 17. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, November 11, extended till further orders the protection of the area where Hindu plaintiffs have alleged that a ‘shivling‘ was found at the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi.

The mosque’s caretakers have maintained it is a defunct fountain and not a ‘shivling’.

A bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Surya Kant and P.S. Narasimha allowed the Hindu parties to move an application before the Varanasi district judge for consolidation of all the lawsuits filed surrounding the claim that Hindu rituals be allowed at the mosque premises.

The CJI-led bench also directed the Hindu parties to file their replies within three weeks on the appeal filed by the management committee of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid challenging the Allahabad high court order on the appointment of a survey commissioner.

On May 17, the top court had passed an interim order directing the district magistrate of Varanasi to ensure protection of the area inside the Gyanvapi Mosque complex where the ‘shivling’ was claimed to have been found in the survey. It had clarified then that this order will not meddle with the right of Muslims to access the mosque and offer prayers there.

Five Hindu women plaintiffs had moved a Varanasi trial court alleging that the city’s Gyanvapi mosque houses Hindu deities. They asked that Hindus be allowed to pray there.

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