“Our difficulty is that the court’s interim order is coming to end on November 12,” Jain submitted.
The bench then agreed to hear the matter on November 10.
On May 20, the top court had transferred a civil suit filed by Hindu devotees on the Gyanvapi mosque from the civil judge (senior division) to the district judge, Varanasi, saying looking at the “complexities” and the “sensitivity” of the issue, it is better if a senior judicial officer with more than 25-30 years of experience handles the case.
In an important observation, the apex court had also said a process to ascertain the religious character of a place of worship is not barred under the Places of Worship Act of 1991.
It had said the matter involves complexities and sensitivity and it would be better if a district judge handles the case and made it clear that it is not casting any aspersion on the civil judge, who was earlier dealing with the suit.
The top court had also directed the district judge to decide on the priority of the application under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure (on maintainability) filed by the mosque committee, which had said the civil suit is barred by a 1991 law of Parliament, upon the transfer of the papers of the suit from the civil judge.
It had said its earlier interim order of May 17, directing protection of the area where the “Shivling” is said to be found and allowing Muslims to offer namaz on the mosque premises, shall remain in operation till the maintainability of the suit is decided by the district judge and thereafter, for eight weeks to allow the aggrieved parties to approach a higher court.
“The interim order of this court dated May 17, 2022, shall continue to remain in operation pending the disposal of the application under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC and thereafter, for a period of eight weeks to enable the parties, which are aggrieved by the order of the district judge, to pursue rights and remedies in accordance with law,” the apex court had said.
It had also directed the district magistrate to make adequate arrangements for “wazu” (ablution) for those coming to the mosque to offer namaz, in consultation with the parties involved in the dispute.
On May 17, the top court had directed the Varanasi district magistrate to ensure protection of the area inside the Gyanvapi-Shringar Gauri complex, where the “Shivling” is said to be found, and allowed Muslims to offer namaz.
“Balancing the equity”, the top court, while hearing a plea moved by the management committee of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, which manages the Gyanvapi mosque, passed the order and refused to stay the ongoing proceedings before the lower court.
The top court had said it needed to balance the rights of the contesting parties and clarified that the order of the civil judge would not restrict and impede the rights of Muslims to offer namaz and perform religious observances.
The Muslim side to the dispute has been referring to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and its section 4, which bars the filing of a 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. PTI MNL RC