SC asks Varanasi civil court not to proceed with Gyanvapi hearing till May 20 as counsel indisposed

The Supreme Court asked the civil court in Varanasi to not proceed with hearing the Gyanvapi case till it takes up the matter on Friday.

Published: 19th May 2022 12:13 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th May 2022 10:13 PM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court

Supreme Court (Photo | EPS)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The team that conducted a survey of the Gyanvapi mosque submitted its report Thursday to the Varanasi district court, which has now been asked by the Supreme Court not to proceed with hearing the case for another day.

The Supreme Court asked the trial court to put on hold its own proceedings till it takes up the matter again on Friday.

The top court had deferred its hearing as a counsel is ill.

The Varanasi court will now continue with its hearing on May 23, a counsel representing the Hindu petitioners said.

The counsel for the mosque management committee said both sides filed their "objections and counter-objections" before the trial court on Thursday.

Among the petitions now expected to be in heard in the civil court on May 23 is a petition, challenged by the mosque committee, seeking the removal of a wall between the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the adjacent Gyanvapi mosque.

The survey was ordered earlier by District Civil Judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar while hearing the petition of a group of women seeking the right to worship daily the Hindu idols on the outer wall of the mosque.

Earlier this week, lawyers representing these petitioners claimed that a Shivling was found during the videography survey of the Gyanvapi mosque-Shringar Gauri complex.

The claim was disputed by the mosque committee members who said it was part of the water fountain mechanism in the wazookhana reservoir, used by devotees to perform ritual ablutions before offering namaz.

The district court had then ordered the sealing of the 'wazookhana'.

Special advocate commissioner Vishal Singh, assigned to lead the survey after another advocate was removed by the judge, said he has submitted documents, photographs and videos before the district court.

After being scuttled earlier, the survey was conducted on May 14, 15 and 16.

"I do not have the right to tell what is in the survey report. Now the court will take further action on it," he told the media outside the Varanasi court on Thursday.

In the Supreme Court, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and P S Narashima was informed by advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain that lead counsel Hari Shankar Jain for the Hindu devotees was discharged from hospital on Wednesday, and was indisposed.

Appearing for the mosque management, senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi said several applications have been filed across the country to "seal" various mosques.

In the Gyanvapi case in Varanasi, he added, the hearing is going on and an application has been filed to "demolish" a wall around the ‘wazookhana'.

Ahmadi said he cannot oppose an adjournment on the grounds of the health of a counsel but an undertaking should be given that Hindu devotees will not proceed with the civil court hearing.

The apex court then ordered the Varanasi court to put its proceedings on hold.

"We accordingly direct the trial court to strictly act in terms of the above arrangement and to desist from taking up further proceedings in the suit in view of the consensus which has been arrived at between the parties," the court said.

The bench directed the listing of the matter before it on Friday at 3 pm.

In Varanasi, Abhay Yadav, the lawyer appearing for the Muslim side, said the Hindu petitioners want the court-appointed survey team to carry on with its proceedings by demolishing certain walls, "to which we have objected".

"Also, a government counsel had demanded the removal of fish from a man-made pond located on the premises of the mosque. These fish are ours and we have raised our objection to this petition as well," he said.

The two petitions were to be heard on Wednesday but the day's proceedings were called off due to a lawyers' strike.

The Supreme Court had directed the Varanasi court on Tuesday to ensure the protection of the area where the Shivling is claimed to have been found, but without impeding "religious observances".

The SC had said it needs to balance the rights of contesting parties.

The Muslim side has been referring to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 that bars the filing of any suit or initiating any other legal proceeding for the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, as existing on August 15, 1947.

On Tuesday, the Varanasi civil court removed advocate commissioner Ajay Mishra for "irresponsible behaviour towards the discharge of his duties" and granted time till Thursday to the survey team to file the report.

The removal order had come on an application moved by special advocate commissioner Vishal Singh who informed the court that Mishra had deployed a "personal cameraman" was giving wrong information to the media on a regular basis.



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