The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to list for hearing on April 21 a plea of the Hindu side seeking consolidation of all suits filed in a Varanasi court pertaining to the Gyanvapi mosque complex row. A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha and Justice J B Pardiwala took note of the submissions of lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain that the district judge of Varanasi has deferred five times the decision on a plea seeking clubbing of all civil suits pertaining to the dispute. “We will list it for hearing on April 21,” it said. The top court on November 11 last year had extended till further orders the protection of the area where a ‘shivling’ was claimed to have been found in Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque complex.
It had also allowed the Hindu parties to move an application before the Varanasi district judge for consolidation of all lawsuits filed on the Gyanvapi mosque-Shringar Gauri row.
The Supreme Court had also directed the Hindu parties to file their replies within three weeks on the appeal by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee challenging the Allahabad High Court order on the appointment of a survey commissioner.
On May 17 last year, the SC had passed an interim order directing the Varanasi district magistrate to ensure protection of the area inside the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex where the structure claimed to be a ‘shivling’ was found during a survey.
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The mosque committee, however, maintained that the structure was part of the water fountain mechanism at the ‘wazookhana’ reservoir where devotees perform ablutions before offering namaz. The video survey was ordered by the court of the civil judge (senior division) in Varanasi. The SC transferred the case to the district judge on May 20 last, pointing at the “complexities” and the ”sensitivity” of the issue and saying that a more senior judicial officer should handle it.
In its earlier May 17 last year order, the top court had directed protection of the area around the claimed ‘shivling’ while also allowing Muslims to offer namaz in the mosque.
The SC had said the interim order shall remain in operation till the maintainability of the suit is decided by the district judge, and then for eight more weeks to allow the aggrieved parties to approach a higher court.
The Varanasi district judge is now hearing the plea by a group of women seeking permission for daily worship of idols of Hindu deities located on the mosque’s outer wall. The Hindu side has also sought a survey of two locked basements in the mosque complex.