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Allahabad High Court Rules on Gyanvapi Dispute: Trial to Determine Character of Compound

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In a significant development, the Allahabad High Court has ruled that civil suits filed by Hindu worshippers and deities, seeking the restoration of a temple at the Gyanvapi Mosque premises, are not barred by the Places of Worship Act. The court’s decision holds importance as it addresses a long-standing dispute over the nature of the Gyanvapi compound located adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 prohibits the conversion of religious structures from their nature as of August 15, 1947.

Gyanvapi

Court Decision and Trial Directive: Balancing Religious Character

According to a report by Live Law, Justice Rohit Ranjan Agrawal rejected the challenge by the Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee (AIMC), which manages the Gyanvapi mosque. The court asserted that the Gyanvapi compound can have either a Muslim or a Hindu character. Importantly, the Allahabad High Court directed the trial court to expeditiously decide the suit within six months.

Legal Background: Places of Worship Act and Varanasi Dispute

The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, enacted in 1991, aims to maintain the religious character of places of worship as they existed on the date of independence. The dispute in Varanasi revolves around a suit filed in a Varanasi court by Hindu petitioners seeking the restoration of a temple at the site where the Gyanvapi mosque presently stands. The AIMC and the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board challenged the suit’s maintainability and a Varanasi court order for a comprehensive survey of the Gyanvapi mosque.

GYANVAPI

Challenges to the Suit: Legal Maneuvering by AIMC and Waqf Board

The AIMC, responsible for the Gyanvapi mosque‘s management, contested the suit’s maintainability, challenging the right of the Hindu petitioners to seek the restoration of a temple at the contested site. Additionally, the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board questioned the Varanasi court’s order for a comprehensive survey of the Gyanvapi mosque, adding another layer of complexity to the legal proceedings.

Hindu Side’s Claim: Gyanvapi Mosque as Part of the Temple

The Hindu petitioners argue that the Gyanvapi mosque is an integral part of the temple, setting the stage for a contentious legal battle over the historical and religious significance of the site.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Involvement: Scientific Examination

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) played a crucial role in the dispute by conducting a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi premises. The survey aimed to determine whether the mosque was constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple. The Varanasi district court’s order prompted the ASI to survey beneath the mosque’s domes, the cellars, and the western wall. The court emphasized the need for a thorough examination of the plinth and pillars to ascertain the building’s age and nature without causing damage to the disputed structure.

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Judicial Oversight and Survey Necessity: Allahabad High Court’s Decision

The Allahabad High Court, upholding the Varanasi district court’s order, ruled that the survey was “necessary in the interest of justice” and would benefit both the Hindu and Muslim sides in the dispute. This decision underscores the court’s commitment to a fair and thorough examination of the historical and architectural aspects of the Gyanvapi mosque.

Conclusion: Trial Implications and Evolving Legal Landscape

As the Gyanvapi dispute heads to trial, the Allahabad High Court’s ruling sets the stage for a comprehensive legal evaluation of the compound’s character. The court’s directive to expedite the trial within six months signals a commitment to resolving the longstanding dispute promptly. The legal proceedings not only hold implications for the religious identity of the Gyanvapi compound but also contribute to the evolving legal landscape surrounding historical places of worship in India. The outcome of this trial will be closely watched as it navigates the delicate intersection of history, religion, and legal intricacies.

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