Varanasi’s senior-most judge is expected to decide today whether the court should continue hearing a case filed by five Hindu women seeking the right to worship inside the city’s Gyanvapi mosque, located next to the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple.
District Judge AK Visvesh is likely to decide whether the trial of the women’s case – which led to a survey inside the Gyanvapi mosque – should continue or be quashed.
In May, the Supreme Court referred the matter to the court of the district judge of Varanasi, transferring it from the lower court, where the trial was being held till then.
The Supreme Court had ordered: “Keeping in view the complexity and sensitivity of the matter, the civil suit before the Civil Judge at Varanasi shall be heard by a senior and experienced Judicial Officer of the UP Judicial Service.”
A month before the Supreme Court’s intervention in the matter, the Civil Court of Varanasi had ordered the filming of the Gyanvapi Masjid based on a petition by Hindu women claiming to have idols of Hindu gods and goddesses in the Gyanvapi mosque complex.
A report of filming at the mosque was submitted to a Varanasi court in a sealed cover, but the Hindu petitioners controversially released the details hours later.
The report claimed that a “shivalinga” was found in a pond within the mosque complex, which was used for “wazu” or purification rituals before Muslim prayers. The judge, who was hearing the case at that time, had ordered the sealing of this pond.
The filming inside the centuries-old mosque was challenged in the Supreme Court by the Gyanvapi Masjid Committee.
The petitioners contended that the filming is against the Places of Worship Act of 1991, which upholds the religious status of any place of worship till August 15, 1947.
The mosque committee had argued, “Such petitions and sealing of mosques would lead to public mischief and communal disharmony, affecting mosques across the country.”
The Masjid Committee made similar arguments before the Varanasi District Judge’s court, while the lawyers for the Hindu petitioners claimed that the law did not preclude their case and they could establish in the court that the mosque complex was in fact a temple as stated. It was the day of independence.